What To Do When You Can’t Run

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

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
 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

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

Achilles tendonitis
Typical healing time:
4–12 weeks
 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

Dr. Tom Fletcher is a Chiropractor located in Murray, Utah.  He has been specializing in athletic injuries, as well as auto accident injuries such as back pain and whiplash for over 7 years.  He is trained in providing ART (Active Release Technique) and Graston techniques to impaired muscles, tendons, and ligaments. When not working with patients he loves to train and participate in triathlons and Ironman events around the world.