The Benefits of Cross Training When Injured

Picking up an injury or niggle is an all too often experience for runners. There is nothing more frustrating for any runner when training is going well in the lead up to a big race and then you are forced on to the side lines and feel your fitness draining away. But an enforced absence from your usual running volume doesn’t have to be the disaster you fear and managed well can sometimes bring some positive results.

For well-trained athletes you can broadly maintain your cardiovascular (aerobic) fitness for around 10 days…despite most runners feeling unfit with 10 hours of no running! But even if your injury extends beyond this period there are many things you can do to help keep your fitness levels up which will help the transition back into running. Now is the time to focus on ‘cross training’.

Many of your running training sessions can be replicated in a form of cross training, this may be swimming, aqua jogging, rowing, on the cross trainer or elliptical or cycling. Ultimately, your cardiovascular system is challenged by time and intensity of exercise, not the specific type. So working in your easy, threshold or vo2 max training zones can be easily replicated through these other activities. Polar Vantage has additional Sport Profiles to cover swimming, cycling, indoor cycling and many other activities – so you can still use these to ensure you are training in the right zone and track your overall fitness levels.

When you are training hard most days of the week with high mileage, it can be difficult to ensure you are doing regular strength work – in fact lack of sufficient focus on strength work is a likely factor in the injury cause in the first place. So during the period of injury it is an ideal time to increase your level of strength and conditioning. Not only will this help with speed of recovery, it should also reduce the future risk of the injury recurring.  And you can do 2 or 3 sessions a week without fear or having heavy legs on the next run.

With the extra available time for strength work you can switch the focus between strength and power or focusing more on endurance, there are lots of ways to keep the stimulus fresh so you are constantly adapting.

Time can also be dedicated to Pilates, Yoga and regular mobility and stretching. Keeping your muscles supple and improving range of movement in your hips, back and ankles, can all pay huge rewards when you do get back to running.

If you remain as dedicated during your period of injury as you are during your normal training, and follow a structure and purpose you may well come back into running feeling refreshed, stronger and after the first 2 or 3 runs, back to where you were pre-injury.

But take that learning forward with you – once back running don’t stop with all the areas of cross training – perhaps incorporate a day every few weeks when you drop a run in favour of a swim or cycle to reduce down impact on your soft tissue. Keep doing the strength work particularly on the area of the injury, and you may well find that short period of injury helps you become a faster, fitter and less injury prone runner.