What To Do When You Can’t Run

Don’t let injury set you back. These alternatives will keep you in the game.

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Research suggests that nearly half of all runners experience an injury every year. That’s a whole lot of harriers sentenced to time off their feet. Lucky for all of us, there are a number of workout alternatives that allow you time to heal without sending you back to square one of your training regimen. “Using alternative means of exercise while recovering from running injuries can help maintain general fitness, while also providing an important psychological boost for athletes accustomed to training day in and day out,” explains Adam Hodges, a multisport coach at Alp Fitness in La Crescenta, Calif.

Consider the following workouts for some of the most common running injuries. Hodges reminds runners, “the key for any of these injuries is to find an alternative form of exercise that the athlete is motivated to do and that doesn’t aggravate the injury.” Keep moving, listen to your body and you’ll be back logging mileage in no time.

Stress fracture

Typical healing time: 6–8 weeks

Alternative: Deep-water running. Allowing you to avoid all the pavement pounding, deep-water running still trains the running movement. Not only will this get your heart rate up, it’ll strengthen some of the same muscles you’ll use when you get back to land running.

Try this: Wear a flotation belt during your first workout, but once you master the form, consider shedding the belt for a more intense cardio session.
– Warm-up: 10 min easy water jogging
– Run slightly harder than 5K race effort for 1 min, 2 min, 3 min, 4 min, 3 min, 2 min, 1 min with half rest jogging recovery between each
– Jog: 4 min recovery
– 6×30-sec sprints with 30 sec active rest in between
– Cool-down: 5 min

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IT band syndrome

Typical healing time:
2–6 weeks

Alternative: Cycling. In addition to an aggressive stretching routine, cycling can provide a cardio exercise that avoids the repetitive movements that often cause IT band issues. Think of this as an opportunity to do a bike-focused block of training.

Try this:
Do a workout using varied cadences on either your bike outside or on a trainer, or, at the least, a stationary bike with foot straps at the gym. Be sure to monitor the resistance so you are pedaling the prescribed revolutions per minute (RPM).
– Warm-up: 10 min
– Ride at 80 RPM for 5 min
– Increase to 90 RPM for 8 min
– Increase to 110 RPM for 2 min
– Repeat 2–3 times
– Cool-down: 5 min

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Plantar fasciitis

Typical healing time: 2–4 weeks

Alternative: Elliptical. This exercise will help you maintain your cardiovascular fitness, but requires less loading on the plantar fascia than running.

Try this: Experiment with the resistance on the elliptical machine. Be sure it’s high enough that your heart rate is elevated and you’re striding in a controlled fashion.
– Warm-up: 10 min
– Go at 5K effort for 10 min, 10 min, 8 min, with 3 min active recovery in between each.
– Cool-down: 10 min

RELATED – Injury Prevention: Is Stretching Beneficial To Triathletes?

Achilles tendonitis

Typical healing time:
4–12 weeks

Alternative: Swimming. Achilles injuries require you to rest the affected area, making swimming a great exercise option. Kicking will provide blood flow to the area without the demand it takes to push off the ground when running.

Try this:
– Warm-up: 15 min
– 2×100 sprint with 1 min recovery
– 2×100 kick sprint (with kickboard) with 1 min recovery
– 5×50 sprint with 30 sec recovery
– 5×50 kick sprint with 30 sec recovery
– Cool-down: 10 min

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