3. Don't Skip Your PT Sessions
Not being able to run stinks, but instead of wallowing in self-pity with a pint of ice cream, why not do your physical therapy exercises instead? Not only will they speed the rate of your recovery, but you can actually make that weak link in your body stronger than it was before the injury ever happened. A 2013 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that physical therapy was as effective as surgery for some patients with torn knee cartilage, while scientists at the University of Sydney, Australia, found that therapeutic exercises reduced the recurrence of ankle injuries.
This is also a great opportunity to reap the benefits of strength training. Working the larger muscle groups can have the greatest impact on improving body composition, which can correlate to faster running times, according to a 2012 study published in Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine. Exercises like pull-ups, pushups, bench press, lunges, and deadlifts are among the best for building lean muscle mass. And don't be afraid to go heavy—research by the American College of Sports Medicine found that lifting very heavy weights resulted in an eight percent improvement in running economy among highly trained endurance runners.
If you've been using your runs as a way to unwind and manage stress, an injury puts you at high risk for Crabby Apple Syndrome. Now is a good time to explore a few new stress management techniques that will not only get you through this difficult time, but can actually help keep you injury-free once you return to running.
According to the American Journal of Sports Medicine, a large body of research exists documenting a correlation between stress and sports injuries. On the surface, our inability to reign in worry and anxiety can lead to distraction and loss of focus during a run, increasing the likelihood of a misstep. At the cellular level, those stress hormones wreak havoc on our bodies, adversely affecting our ability to properly recover from our workouts. Over time, this can manifest as an overtraining injury. So use this time to learn some basic relaxation techniques, like guided meditation or breath work, and be sure to keep that practice up when you return to running.
More: 8 Easy Ways to Relax
5. Practice Visualization
Decades of research have shown a positive relationship between visualization and improved athletic performance. While you're icing your injury, simply picturing yourself running can keep the involved neural pathways strong. A 2012 study conducted at Ohio University put 10 female runners on a treadmill in front of a mirror. They completed eight training sessions, receiving verbal prompts for form improvements. They were then sent out to train on their own, without mirrors, for three months. At the end of the three-month follow-up period, the women had maintained their new, better running form, presumably because they were able to visualize the correct technique they had viewed months earlier.
Although you can't watch yourself run on a treadmill while you're laid up, you can watch video clips of world-class runners demonstrating perfect form and imagine yourself mimicking their technique.
Next time you're laid up, remember: it's not the worst thing in the world to give your body a break from running. Use the time constructively, and when you return to the sport you just might find yourself faster and stronger than you were before.Sign up for your next race.