How To Keep Active When Recovering From A Running Injury

It happens to all of us at one point or another. It doesn’t matter if you have the muscles and strength of LeBron James from the Miami Heat or the speed and soccer skills of Wayne Rooney from Manchester United. Sometimes there is just no avoiding it: we all suffer from a sport’s injury at some point in our lives. Although avoiding injury should never be a constant concern on your runs, there are alternatives to keep you going while your body is healing should you ever end up with a twisted ankle or a stress fracture.

Michael Phelps would certainly agree, swimming is an excellent, low-impact alternative to running. As the water supports your body, your joints do not experience the same level of stress and impact they do during a run. There’s no doubt that swimming is a strenuous sport, allowing you to increase your endurance and reach your cardio fitness level just as easily as running. Besides working out, water is also frequently used for rehabilitation purposes, such as kicking your knees back and forth to build strength and increase range of motion after a knee injury or writing the alphabet with your foot to help the healing process of an ankle sprain. If you are someone who often struggles with shin splints, incorporating a swim into your training regime can help to eliminate this problem. Moreover, swimming is a total and complete body exercise, working everything from your arms and abs, down to your heels and toes.

If you are more of a land mammal than a dolphin, biking can be another substitute for running. A stationary bike is a great start following a knee injury as it enables you to adjust the resistance you’re pedaling against to minimize your pain. As you heal, you can increase the resistance and adjust your speed accordingly, or even switch over to a road bike. Similar to swimming, biking reduces the amount of stress on your joints when compared to running, but can still be used to burn calories and boost your endurance.

When swimming and biking can’t satisfyingly scratch your itch to run, why not try something completely different? It might not be the first thing you think after an injury, however yoga could be another new and unique alternative to running. The first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word yoga is probably stretching. Yoga exercises work to stretch and extend every aspect of your body, including your skin, your muscles, your tendons and your ligaments. All the varying yoga postures will increase the flexibility of your body and ultimately help you to avoid future muscle tears and injuries. Yoga can be utilized as a way to build strength as well. Such stances as the upward dog and downward dog require you to support your body weight with your arms. These postures are then out held for a period of time, compelling the use of your muscles to maintain your balance. The benefits of yoga will not only help you avoid injuries in the future, but will help to perfect your overall running form through improved posture.

When you do find yourself suffering from a battle wound, it can be difficult to accept the fact that you can not and should not run. Furthermore, that runner’s high, the natural endorphins our bodies create when we run for long distances, can allow us to easily ignore even our most excruciating pains. As addictive as the runner’s high is, I urge you to listen to your body! You will know better than any doctor in the world when something is not right. When your body is sending you signals to take it easy, don’t ignore them. For example, what started out as three to six weeks off may quickly escalate into a year’s worth of recovery time if you push yourself past your limits. What begins as a partial ACL ligament stretch in the knee could develop into a complete tear with accompanying meniscus damage.

No matter what, always stay positive! Don’t forget that you will bounce back from an injury, just like you always have in the past. As long as you have the desire and drive to run, an injury will never hold you back for too long.
Dr. Andrew Schneider
Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.