Amanda Regnier, MSc., C.S.C.S
Running optimization specialist
Running with Regnier
CURRENTLY INJURED AND CAN’T RUN? HOW ARE YOU COPING WITH THIS?? HOW CAN YOU STILL STAY ACTIVE?
Step 1: Deal with the underlying issue
Many running related injuries can be traced back to muscle weakness and imbalances. It’s important to figure out the ROOT cause of the injury. Often, the spot where the injury actually presents itself is not the entire problem. Rather a byproduct of another malfunctioning muscle or structure above or below the injury. This is where you are highly encouraged to pop in to see a Physiotherapist or Functional Range Conditioning (FRC®) specialist for a full body assessment.
Often…where the injury actually presents itself is not the entire problem
Personally, I refer any client dealing with injuries to practitioners who are certified in clinical FRC® practices. Clinicians with this training see your body as one big moving and intertwined structure rather than separate pieces. There is also a heavy emphasis on regaining joint heath and mobility, which can be the root of many running related injuries. For this reason, I incorporate joint health/ mobility exercises in all strength programs I create to reduce chances of injury.
Step 2: Supplemental Cardio
This will highly depend on the location and severity of the injury. My favorite way to stay active is in the pool – not just swimming laps – but rather water running! Water running can be a great supplemental exercise to add to your routine to maintain running fitness in a non-impact fashion. To do this, go to the deep end of the pool and in a vertical position begin moving your arms forward and back (in a running motion) while you “stomp on grapes” with your feet (your knees should be getting up to just below 90 degrees while doing this motion and your toes should be pulled up the entire time). This can be made easier by wearing a water belt (most pools have them) or harder by keeping your fingers straight and glued together to “slice” through the water instead of being used to stay buoyant.
Water running can be a great non impact activity
To insure you get a good workout, do intervals of 3-5 minutes where I maintain a heart rate of about 70-80% of my max (max HR = 220-age) (note: this is not ACTUALLY your max heart rate, but rather a very loose way to give yourself a target HR to aim for while in the pool). To increase your HR, move your arms and legs faster through the water, and lightly tread water to decrease it during the rest. After the interval, take a 1-2 minute break and repeat 5-6 more times. I also like to include a light warm-up and cool down (5-10 minutes in length) before and after the intervals, where I slowly move my arms and legs to either increase from resting or decrease my heart rate after the sets.
Step 3: Reduce the chances for re-injury
“I love the gym” – said no runner ever.
Unfortunately, whether you love it or hate it, incorporating an individualized strength and mobility program into your weekly routine (2-3 x/ week) can SIGNIFICANTLY reduce your chances of becoming re-injured. As well as improving your speed and power. In addition, consistent strength training can also improve body composition (leaving you with less fat and more muscle!). Since muscle is a much more metabolically active tissue than fat is (i.e. muscle burns more calories than fat), as you increase your lean muscle, your metabolism increases. If weight loss is a goal for you, this should be a priority since increasing your % of lean muscle mass means you will be burning more calories just sitting on the couch than if that same amount of tissue was just fat.
…as you increase lean muscle, your metabolism increases
Along with increases in lean muscle can come small increases in weight, despite the drop in dress/ pant size. If done properly, your strength program should not cause a significant weight gain, unless you are underweight, and looking to add on a few lbs of muscle. However, even if you are trying to lose weight, the small increases in muscle related weight will likely not negatively impact your performance.
Last, but not least, keep in mind in your ‘return to running’ program. Although being given the green light to run again is a great feeling, suddenly running too many miles or doing high intensity workouts can set you back weeks or even months. Therefore, take time to carefully program a progressive increase in mileage and intensity to allow your body to slowly get back to running shape. It can be a slow process, but even slower if you have to go back to the rehab stages! Be patient and have comfort knowing there are ways to maintain your cardiovascular fitness and increase strength despite not being able to run, that will both contribute to improving your running economy.