Okay, so your doctor has put the final nail in your running coffin and has said those dreaded words, “stop running.” Great. Now what? Well, you have a couple options. You can sulk on the couch while binging on ice cream and Netflix, cursing the running gods for allowing this to happen, or you can make the best of your downtime and become a regular at the gym. Your body, and your friends, will appreciate the latter much more. I’ll lay out your best options below.
Can you walk? Then go walk. Hike. Find some steep hills and power your butt up it. Get on the treadmill and crank the incline to 15%. This is especially useful if you have a trail race on the calendar.
Can’t walk? Then bike. Go outside if you aren’t too afraid of crazy-ass drivers and clip-in shoes (like me). Get on the spin bike if you are. Explore the cult of SoulCycle. We are just chasing that endorphin fix, after all.
Banned from all weight-bearing? Get in the pool! I know, I know, but hear me out. It’s hard to get excited about the most boring exercise in the history of exercise. But pool running (I refuse to call it “aqua jogging,” and don’t you dare refer to it as “water aerobics”) is THE BEST cross training you can do for running. There is zero impact, you can push really hard with very little risk of injury, and the water is actually very therapeutic for the body. Buy yourself a floaty belt and a pair of bluetooth wireless headphones. Put on some Beyonce or your favorite podcast, and get in the water.
It’s hard to believe running through water is doing anything to help your land running, but I’ve seen the proof over and over again. Teammates and friends relegated to the pool for six weeks come out of the water and PR all over the place. You just have to trust in the process. Even when I am among the non-injured, I still get in the pool at least once a week. It’s an amazing recovery tool and a great way to add more mileage when you are building back up.
- Form Tips: imagine you are on an elliptical. Take long strides and really engage the glutes to pull the legs back. Pump your arms. Cupping your hands makes it easier. Keep your core engaged and legs underneath you so you don’t end up in a doggy paddle.
- Do drills. High knees, butt kicks, bounds. It makes the time pass quicker.
- Go beltless. My current favorite workout is a 15 minute warmup with belt, 15 minutes without the belt at a tempo effort (it will feel frantic and like a controlled drowning at first), and then 15-30 minute cooldown.
- Other workouts. Try “Yasso 800s” in the pool. Go hard for two laps, recover for one. Do time-based intervals. See how fast you can go or how high you can get your heart rate. Race the swimmers. Work on high cadence. It’s really hard!
The other exercise you absolutely should be doing while injured, and for that matter, ALL the time, is strength training. You are most likely in this position because you made errors in your training (too much intensity, not enough recovery) and overloaded a muscular imbalance. Well, now is the perfect time to work on correcting that imbalance. Assuming you have a lower leg injury that needs rest, here are the best exercises that keep you off your feet. Pick a few, do 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps. Boom, strength work done.
Jane Fondas (hip abduction)
Scapula Pushups in table top position
Next blog post will cover the very tricky return to running. And as always, I’m always happy to answer specific questions!