As you're trotting along, unsuspecting, a sudden sharp pain stops you in your tracks. It's a scenario many runners know all-too well.
Maybe your longtime achy foot is suddenly gripped with a searing sensation. Or perhaps it's that creaky knee, which has always been a pest, but now seems to have gone on strike.
As you limp home, the realization that a relatively serious injury has occurred can be overwhelmingly disappointing. But before you fall into the grips of despair, try embracing this (albeit forced) opportunity to take a hiatus from running and try some new activities. Just make sure to ease into your alternative training with an eye toward a focused recovery.
"Doing too much is a common mistake injured runners make. Or hopping back into running very quickly," says Elizabeth Corkum, owner and head coach of Coach Corky Runs in New York City. "It's very important to respect the body and not go crazy. Some runners will be tempted to spend hours in a gym hopping around to different cross-training machines. Instead, remember the purpose of that workout--just as every run should have a purpose."
We chatted with several veteran running coaches who offered up a few alternative training suggestions for those on the comeback trail. Just be sure to consult your physical therapist or physician to ensure that your workout(s) of choice will not exacerbate your specific injury.
"Spin classes are excellent," says Heather North, owner and doctor of physical therapy at Red Hammer Rehab in Louisville, Colorado. "They are exciting, led by an instructor and get the [heart rate] up where it needs to be, just as if the athlete were running. In spin classes, intervals are usually incorporated, which breaks up the monotony."
She suggests the following workout because it "mimics an interval workout with running and taxes the body's anaerobic zone."
"If you cannot run, at least do a workout that affects the cardiovascular system in the same way," she says.
If you can't get to a class, try this on your own on a spin bike:
1. Easy 10-minute warmup.
2. Pedal hard for 1 minute.
3. Easy 30 seconds.
4. Hard 2 minutes.
5. Easy 1 minute.
6. Hard 3 minutes.
7. Easy 90 seconds.
8. Hard 4 minutes.
9. Easy 2 minutes.
10. Hard 5 minutes.
11. Easy 2.5 minutes.
Repeat the pyramid from the bottom up.