Insult To Injury Defy the knocks with our cross-training selector to find the best way to keep your progress on track while you recover from that niggle.
Physios and coaches up and down the land will be asked by injured runners every day “can I still run?”, and in most cases it’s not in the experts’ interests to stop someone from running. We don’t want the muscles to strengthen in a way that is not specific to running so as often as possible we try to keep people doing some sort of running. It’s rarely a full training load while you recuperate from an injury, however, so what else can be done to stay fit and on track for your next race?
In the early weeks
Be careful not to upset any injury further by using the cross trainer or bike while still in pain. Your aim is always to get back into a progressive running plan as quickly as possible. Wear rigid/supportive trainers if you're on an indoor bike or proper cycle shoes on an outdoor bike. If you ususally wear orthotics to run in make sure these are in any gym or cycle as well.
You can follow your usual running plan with this form of exercise in the early weeks. It is literally running in the water with a buoyancy aid that keeps you afloat whilst you use your normal running action. (you can get one of these from your local running shop or online easily)
Make sure you remain upright and never lean forward so far that you start doggy paddling and looking pretty sad!
If you think aqua jogging is for softies then think again, the New Zealand Rugby team use it, as do most elite distance runners, even when NOT injured, as part of their training. It’s no-impact and you shouldn’t touch the ground or floor of the pool. Those who have tried it actually know it’s a hard core form of X training. You have resistance from the water in all directions at all times, making running outdoors suddenly seem a doddle.
The ultra strong and fit can even aqua jog without the belt, but that takes plenty of practice - lets not force the lifeguard to down his paper just yet!
■ 5 x 5 mins at threshold intensity (not quite flat out but you can only say a few words) with the first 30 seconds of each 5 min block and middle 30 seconds at sprint effort. This keeps the heart rate high for the full 5 minutes of each block and stops you getting complacent.
Swim two lengths recovery between each 5 mins and swim to warm up and cool down.
■ 3 x (4 x 1 mins hard) with a 1 min swim recovery between each effort and 2 length easy swim between each block.
■ 3 x 3 mins, 2 mins , 1 min all with a 30-45 second recovery between each effort. After completing one set of 3 mins, 2 mins , 1 min, again swim for a couple of lengths before starting the next set.
In the early weeks and even when you’re not injured you can also use this to challenge yourself and maintain endurance. It won’t hurt your running technique provided you stretch lots afterwards.
Use the bike for long rides that recreate your long runs and longer sustained threshold work, but make sure you wear rigid trainers or proper cycle shoes with the bike set up correctly for you. Any top bike shop will advise on this and help. You may want to adopt the 30-50 per cent rule though and will need time. A long bike ride often needs to be a fair bit longer than your average long run to feel the same. Be prepared to be out for 2-3 hours or more if
you usually run 80-90 minutes for a long run on your training plan.
■ A 20k progression ride where you pick up the effort and increase power (watts) every 5k. This takes focus and is often best executed on a turbo trainer or static bike unless the roads are good around you.
■ Hill repeats. Find a good hill near you that lasts for 90 seconds to 3 minutes and complete plenty of reps uphill working hard - sometimes seated, sometimes out of the saddle. Make sure you descend safely and use this period to recover.
■ Biking Fartlek. Great fun in a group and best when spontaneous. Get out and spend 30-60 minutes within a ride where you take it in turns to be in charge or hit the front. You then decide on sprinting, pushing the pace for a longer rep or finding a hill etc.
A fantastic all round option for fitness, strength and power but make sure your back is OK and you have great technique. Your physio will definitely need to give the green light on this one. Seek advice if you’re unsure. Indoor rowing machines can really give you top end workouts that feel like a track or interval session.
■ The 5k challenge. Missing your regular 5k parkrun? Get on the rower and try the same distance as a time trial or even race with mates all in a line at the same time. A fantastic top end workout that hits the spot for VO2 max.
■ 6-8 x 500m with a 90 second recovery - this will feel like running 6-8 x 2-3 mins or 800m on the track or road. Take 90 secs or more between each effort.
Again you need to be sure the injury isn’t being irritated when using this piece of kit. Runners often include this machine a few weeks into rehab and there must be NO pain. It’s a great all-body workout if you use the arms strongly as well. Make sure your feet are secure and you keep good posture.
■ Easy, relaxed sessions where you recreate your recovery or steady runs. Try to keep the same heart rate, effort and work for the same period of time.
■ Threshold blocks. If your running plan said 5 x 5 mins at threshold off a 1 min jog recovery then this is the weapon of preference if you want to recreate that in the gym. You can work hard safely and easily adjust resistance with the screen in front of you to keep the workout blocks at threshold intensity.