Health & Wellbeing

Creaky Knees and Dopamine-Seeking Swims

I’ve been recovering from a knee injury recently. It turns out that knees don’t like it when you go on long, erratic jogs after not running for weeks at a time. Maybe it’s my mid-twenties catching up with me? It’s nothing serious, just patella tendonitis. Not as concerning as the Latin would have you believe (but definitely something to get checked by your physio). Speaking from experience, the twingy tenderness just under your kneecap doesn’t go away on its’ own – in fact, it gets worse. 🙃

Unfortunately, it has meant I’ve had to drastically reduce strenuous exercise for the past three months. I hadn’t realised how much its’ absence was affecting my mental health until reintroducing it this week. I’m less irritable, better at regulating my emotions, riding the endorphin waves, and I get a slow release of that sweet sweet dopamine, so I’m less likely to it seek out in unhelpful places (read: social media doom scrolling, winding my girlfriend up, sugar for the sake of sugar!!).

Recently, I went swimming for the first time in a long time. Last year, doing laps at my local pool became a soothing mindfulness exercise for me and did wonders for my mental health too. I had forgotten how much of a difference it can make to get your body moving.

Photo by Kindel Media on

Only after going for the first time in yonks did I remember the value of such a simple activity. There’s something about the rhythm of the strokes, the breath control required, and the absence of dealing with body sweat that makes lap swimming a particularly alluring to me. During the minefield that was my first year of teaching, it was a wondrous way to blow off steam, manage stress and keep up exercise – especially during the winter.

The weekend before last, I had a similar epiphany about running. Before I sought physiotherapy for my knee, I had been planning to do the 12km City to Surf run. My patella had other ideas, but I still managed to do the 6km, which I was stoked about. I had set myself a goal time of sub-45 minutes – assuming I would be able to switch between jogging and walking and pull off that time comfortably.

Quickly, I realised my calculations were waaaay off and my pace had deteriorated significantly. Despite this, my stubbornness won out, and sticking to my goal time, I manage to scrape through with 5 seconds left. I’m hoping to slowly reintegrate a regular jogging routine from here on out so as to avoid a repeat injury…

If you’ve been wanting to get into a new activity, movement or exercise – what’s stopping you? You’ve got this. That, and your mental health will thank you ten times over.


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