4 Activities To Do When You Have a Running Injury
By: James Williams
I’ve recently come off my longest-ever running injury of almost 10 weeks. It was a difficult period and I could barely do any running. I even had to withdraw from my main race of the year - The Tooting 24 hour track race. During this time, I focused on some key activities that ensured my overall fitness stayed high. It also meant that I was able to return to running quicker than ever before. This article gives you specific tips about how to stay fit during an injury, all of which I have personally used.
First, Things, First: Evaluate your Running Injury
There are specific activities that you can do to keep your fitness levels up while injured. Before you get to that point, it’s important to understand how bad your injury is to figure out what activities you can partake in. For example, if you have a slight ankle injury, you will be able to do a lot more than if you have a broken leg. There are a few things to do at this stage:
1) Get a Medical Diagnosis of the Injury
The first thing that you should do is get a diagnosis of your injury. As an athlete, you can be tied up in the emotional nature of an injury and you will always want to get back into training as soon as possible. However, you should seek medical advice before continuing to train.
2) Take a Break from Running
Taking a rest from running is an important part of recovery. Whether you need to completely stop running, or lower the volume and intensity, is dependent on the injury. Pushing through an injury by doing the same training as before, is likely to be the wrong route. I was given advice by a physio who specializes in helping endurance athletes. He said that you should never be pushing through if the pain is 4 out of 10, or above. When I look back at why I was injured for so long, it was because I pushed through an injury in a particular session. It was stupid when I look back at it and hopefully a mistake I won’t be making again. Bear in mind that there are some injuries where it’s advisable to keep up mild activity and a complete
rest is not right for recovery. A trained professional will be able to advise on what the correct approach is for your specific injury.
Activities to Do When You Have A Running Injury
So, you’ve had your injury evaluated, and you believe that you need to take some time off from running. The good news is that you can do other forms of activity. So what are your options?
1) Use Cross-Training to Keep Fitness Up
There are a number of good cross-training activities, which are great for maintaining, and possibly improving your fitness. Depending on the level of your injury you could do any of the following:
Swimming - Very low impact, but a very good workout.
Aqua-jogging - Again, very low impact. And aqua-jogging can also help you improve your running form.
Cycling - Low impact, but has a high impact on your fitness. You can cycle despite most injuries. I spent a lot of time on the Wattbike at my gym during my injury.
Elliptical Machine - This is a great option as it closely resembles the movement of running.
Walking - This is a good way of easing back into running. It’s also good for you if you prefer going outside, rather than being in a gym.
Hiking - If your injury allows you to do more strenuous activity, hiking up hills could be an enjoyable option.
It’s surprising how much you can keep your fitness levels up, just by doing something different. Your body won’t be used to these types of training, therefore the adaptations you see will be much greater than usual.
2) Use Strength Training to Improve Weaknesses and Protect Against Future Running Injuries.
Light weight training (or heavy weight training, depending on your injury), is a great way to improve weaknesses you may have. During a period when you’re injured you could focus on areas that you know are weak, but never usually have time to work on them because you’d rather be out running. For example, a lot of runners have very weak glutes and hips. By focusing on these areas when you’re injured, you will see big improvements in running form and efficiency when you return. If using any type of weight training, you need to start off slowly and build up very, very gradually. I’d advise starting off with exercises that just use your body weight, rather than actual weights. And make sure that you are focusing on good form, rather than the amount of weight you can lift.
3) Use Yoga To Improve Your Core Strength, Conditioning, and Your Mind.
Yoga is an under-used activity by most runners.There is a lot of skepticism towards how it can help running. Yoga is usually the first activity that gets dropped, even when athletes intend to do it. Introducing yoga into your routine when injured could be a perfect opportunity to try it out. There are a wide range of running benefits from yoga - including fitness, mobility, flexibility, and it can help with your breathing patterns and general focus. Using the Nike Training App, I introduced a new 20-minute yoga workout. It was called the ‘lower body strength yoga’ workout. I’m now going to keep using it as part of my regular morning routine.
4) Maintain (and Introduce) New Habits to Improve Your Own Life.
Speaking of routines, just because you’re injured, doesn’t mean you have to stop doing everything you usually do. Just because you’re injured doesn’t mean you should:
Lay in bed until 7am, when you’d normally wake up at 5am to go running.
Go to bed later, because you don’t have to get up as early in the morning.
Have a poor diet, when you’d normally eat and drink very well.
By all means, you should take this opportunity to recover and relax, but don’t break your usual routine completely. I continued to get up at 5am every morning, even when injured, which has made the transition back into running a lot easier. In fact, it might be a great time to introduce some new good habits and routines. I came across the idea of priming during my injury. Essentially, the concept is that what you do first thing in the morning gets your body and mind in a good state for the rest of the day.
I have specifically introduced doing push-ups when I first wake up. And I’ve taken this a step further by giving myself a simple goal of doing one more push-up every day. There are lots of other ‘hacks’ that you can do. Cold showers and meditation are two of the most popular forms of priming.
Injuries are one of the worst parts of running. But you can use this time to focus on other areas to improve your overall fitness. Once you’ve evaluated your running injury to understand how serious it is, don't forget all your other options.
About The Author
James Williams is a father of two, husband, and runner with race victories at 100 miles, 100km, marathons, half-marathons, 10k's and 5k's. Most recently, he attempted to break a world-record by running more than 800 miles in 9 days from the bottom of the UK to the top. He writes informative articles to help other runners improve their own performances and achieve their dreams on www.JamesRunsFar.com