The Injured Runner 101
You need to know your cross-training options but you also need to know how they differ from actual running as well. Nothing will be able to mimic running exactly, and depending on your cross-training activity you will be working and relying upon different muscles more than you’re used to.
Take the hip flexors for example. These smaller muscles are engaged when you run but you stress them much more if you’re using the elliptical or aqua-jogging. Bombarding these muscles too much too fast can result in hip flexor pulls or strains. Be careful about increasing the amount of time spent doing either of these; instead, gradually build up time just as you would with upping your running miles.
The bike is another common cross-training option but if you don’t know how to properly adjust yourself on it you’re headed for disaster. Riding with an incorrect position can lead to hip and knee problems. A quick tip is remembering that when seated and extending a leg on the pedal, you want that leg’s knee bent 25-35 degrees. To avoid knee injuries, ensure that the distance between the seat and the handlebars is correct; when you put both pedals level the knee closest to the front should be directly over the middle of the pedal.
Traditional pool swimming, not aqua-jogging, is another alternative exercise option, but one needs to be familiar with how to swim with a proper stroke. This is especially true if you are a runner that hasn’t done much core or upper body strengthening and your arms, back, and shoulder muscles may be rather weak.
Keep in mind that nothing will simulate running exactly and each cross-training exercise has its limiting factors. For this reason it’s wise to mix up which machines and workouts you do; this also helps out with the obvious mental burnout that can occur.
Cross-training can seem like the bane of the injured runner, but done smartly, it will infinitely improve your transition back to running. You’d be surprised at how well you can retain your level of fitness and bounce back. The key is devising a cross-training program with the proper balance of quality and quantity, not unlike you do with your running program.
About The Author:
Caitlin Chock set the then National High School 5k Record (15:52.88) in 2004. Still an avid runner, she works as a freelance writer and artist.