The only thing worse than running… is not running. But sometimes that’s the only answer when it comes to injury recovery. About two weeks ago my patellar tendon decided it really wanted a rest (the patellar tendon is attached to the shin and kneecap, which when inflamed causes a tightness and often sharp ache under the patella (kneecap) region).
Now, we all know that when a runner gets injured, the best thing they can do to expedite healing is take a break from running. If you are a runner, you know this is harder than the actual training. After my knee got to where it was actually impeding my workouts to the point that I couldn’t finish them, I finally acquiesced and took a few days off, and my days of not pounding the pavement actually served as a good excuse to hone in on some other cross-training skills that I had been neglecting.
Remember, just because you’re cutting back miles and minutes and adding rest days doesn’t mean that there is nothing left to do, nor does it mean that you have to lament your injury with total lack of activity. In fact, cross-training is not only a way to stay active during injury but is a generally overlooked yet altogether necessary supplement to a runner’s training. Ideally, cross-training should come into play as an “in addition to” not an “instead of,” but there are plenty of things a runner can do with low to zero impact on those days off from running. Let’s hope it won’t take an injury to inspire a few days off or to facilitate a good excuse to explore the possibilities of really working on those other cross-training skills. If you are just starting cross-training, fully take in and apply all that you experience in your new varying workouts to your regular regimen when you get back to running full time.
Here are a few of my favorites I’ve been working with while I let the patellar tendon calm down. Choose these activities carefully depending on your own personal condition; don’t cause yourself further or new injury. Here are some that I’ve discovered to be good for the low-impact needs of dismayed joints:
- Yoga/Pilate’s: Amazing. It’s a great way to stretch and release all those tense muscles. Not only will a yoga workout leave you feeling more serene and invigorated, but you’ll discover that you’re using muscles that aren’t necessarily the primary ones used when running.
- Rowing: The upper body is just as important to the runner as the lower. A lot of one’s speed comes from the strength and stability of the arms. Rowing (be it in an actual boat or on a rowing machine) is an ideal way to strengthen the arms and abdominals (a strong core will go a long way).
- Treading water:This is a zero impact workout that builds strength in the legs and is excellent cardiovascular exercise. Alternate your treading approaches in approximately ten-minute intervals of using just your legs to tread water and treading using both arms and legs. This should be continued for around a collective thirty minutes.
- Simple weight training: Grab some low to moderately weighted dumbbells (5-15 pounds) and work on basic upper body strengthening. Work on bicep curls, tricep extensions, and lie on a bench for presses and flies.
- Running in water: Don’t just stop with treading; there are lots of things a runner can do in the water. For instance, if you have access to a pool with a shallow end where you can stand, try running back and forth across the pool. This will create a resistance and work your legs while providing a surrounding that prevents any sort of harsh impact.
Those are just a few of my personal favorites. Give them a try during rest and recovery, and I guarantee you’ll find they’ll do more good than you could ever imagine! Happy trails!