ALTERNATIVES TO RUNNING WHILE INJURED
Injuries afflict most of us at some point. When addressed early, many injuries can be resolved with rest and training plan adjustments. But more serious injuries may require months away from running.
How can you best stay fit during all that time off?
No athlete wants to be sidelined by an injury. Running may be what you love best, but in order to help yourself come back stronger time out is essential. It is extremely important to allow time to heal and focus on a comprehensive rehabilitation program. If we fail to do his we find ourselves in a vicious circle of early return to activity and re injury. This makes the process a lot longer and ultimately far more distressing. It is vital to honour the body and remember that staying active fit and healthy is something we prioritise for life. With that important perspective shift we can accept that recovery breaks are temporary, necessary and vital.
So while the process of rehabilitation takes place we can focus on what we CAN do. Both endurance-oriented cross-training and strength work can be used to maintain your aerobic fitness and strengthen the supportive structures that help you move injury-free.
Certain types of cross-training such as pool running, cycling and the elliptical are the most effective for aerobic exercise and can support aerobic conditioning for return running. Other types of cross-training, such as strength training, swimming and Pilates, are more complementary to running. Always follow your physiotherapists guidelines as to what type of cross-training is suitable to your injury and recovery process.
If you’re injured and unable to perform any weight-bearing exercise, aqua jogging should be your go-to method for maintaining fitness. Of all types of cross-training, pool running is the most running specific. This means it is most similar to actual running in respect to your movement and biomechanics.
You can replicate just about any type of running workout in the pool, from tempos to intervals to long runs. So what’s the down side of pool running? It’s not terribly exciting, especially if you’re trying to push through a 2-hour long run. But if you can hang in there with a little monotony, you’ll see the benefits when you’re able to hit the road again.
Cycling is another type of cross-training that is particularly runner specific. Because it is a non-weight bearing exercise, injured runners can often cycle pain-free. Like pool running, it provides a perfect opportunity to replicate workouts such as tempos and intervals.
Cycling helps strengthen the quads, outer hips and glutes, which all tend to be weaker in runners. When replacing a running session with a cycling workout, 10–15 minutes on the bike is roughly the equivalent of running one mile. Try to keep your cadence at about 90+ RPMs (rotations per minute), as this helps mimic a running stride.
A third cross-training option that is also runner-specific and low-impact is the elliptical. Working out on an elliptical closely mimics your running movement with little-to-no impact on your joints. Make sure to use enough resistance to get your heart rate elevated for an aerobic workout.
Like pool running, ellipticals can also be a little monotonous. An alternative, if available, is the assault bike. A number of elite runners have used these as a supplement to their training. They have all the benefits of an elliptical machine while allowing you break the monotony.
Strength training is a broad term that encompasses everything from core exercises to bodyweight workouts to lifting weights at the gym. Whether you are injured or not, strength training should be a part of every runner’s routine. But if you can’t run, now is an excellent time to get stronger and more resilient
Glutes and hips are a common weak area for runners, which can lead to a multitude of injuries. Strengthening these areas is essential to healthy running. If you are new to strength training, bodyweight routines and machine weight machines are a perfect way to get started. Add repetitions as you improve, and gradually progress to using heavier weights under the guidance of our physiotherapists. This can be done in the Physiogym.
Swimming is an outstanding full-body workout with no impact. While it may be challenging to get a true aerobic workout from swimming unless you’re already a proficient swimmer, it can add variety to the types of training described above.
If you have a new or nagging injury, you can substitute in a 30–45 minute swim once a week to help maintain aerobic fitness. To target your legs more specifically, try adding in some lapsusing a kickboard.
Pilates can be a great complement to endurance training and will help work some mobility back into tight, inflexible muscles and joints.
Pilates has a strong emphasis on core strength and stability which improves pelvic stability during running. With its emphasis on focused breath and movement no matter the pace, Pilates can also develop your body awareness.
Although getting injured may temporarily take you away from the sport you love, know that what with a commitment to rehabilitation you will improve fitness and strength meaning you will come back stronger than ever.