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Ways to Stay in Running Shape When You're Injured

author image Danielle Hill
Danielle Hill has been writing, editing and translating since 2005. She has contributed to "Globe Pequot" Barcelona travel guide, "Gulfshore Business Magazine," "Connecting Lines: New Poetry from Mexico" and "The Barcelona Review." She has trained in neuro-linguistic programming and holds a Bachelor of Arts in comparative literature and literary translation from Brown University.
Ways to Stay in Running Shape When You're Injured
Low-impact exercises, such as swimming, can supplement your normal running practice. Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images

Regular training is vital to developing and maintaining your performance as a runner. When an injury strikes, it can be challenging or impossible to keep to your practice routine. Work with your coach, a qualified physical therapist or your doctor to devise an alternative practice routine that's safe for your injury. Reassess the workout regularly as your injury heals, gradually working back up to your usual routine.

Low-Impact Options

Ways to Stay in Running Shape When You're Injured
Yoga will put little strain on the body while increasing your flexibility. Photo Credit Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images

While running offers effective cardiovascular exercise, the high-impact nature of the running stride is a major shortcoming for individuals with injured or weakened joints. Some of the most common running injuries affect the feet, ankles, knees or hips, often due to overuse or strain. As you recover from such injuries, maintain your fitness level by practicing low-impact forms of exercise. Rowing and swimming are two intense, full-body exercises that put very little strain on the joints. Even cycling is a relatively low-impact activity, compared with running. Even gentler alternatives include yoga, Pilates and some forms of dance.

Adapted Running Practice

Ways to Stay in Running Shape When You're Injured
Consult with your doctor to find out if an elliptical trainer is safe while recovering from your injury. Photo Credit IT Stock/Polka Dot/Getty Images

If your injury is stopping you from your normal running routine, that doesn't necessarily mean you can't continue to run in some form. After consultation with your doctor or physical therapist, try running on an elliptical trainer, as your injury permits. The modified format will let you keep up your aerobic exercise and work all the muscle groups you use during running. However, you'll cut out the impact of footfalls, as the elliptical machine uses stirrups to guide your feet in smooth, oscillating movements. Your physical therapist or trainer may also guide you through barefoot running techniques, an alternative means of reducing the impact of heel strikes.

Strength Training

Ways to Stay in Running Shape When You're Injured
Strength training helps with rebuilding strength and endurance. Photo Credit Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

Though strength training is not typically a runner's primary area of focus, during recovery from an injury, it can prove particularly useful for rebuilding strength and endurance. For the strength training to be most effective, select exercises that mimic the movements used in running and balance your attention on all the major muscle groups you use when you run. Sprinters and short-distance runners can focus on strength training workouts that feature explosive movements, such as plyometric exercises. Keep the resistance level fairly low and increase your repetitions or workout frequency to avoid building up a bulky musculature.

Flexibility Training

Ways to Stay in Running Shape When You're Injured
Developing your flexibility will help you to recover your full range of motion as your injury heals. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images

If your injury severely limits your ability to perform aerobic or strength training activities, you can still make the most of your capacity at each stage of recovery. If your injury restricts you to gentle flexibility exercises, such as stretching or yoga, take advantage of the opportunity to focus on an area of fitness that's commonly skipped over in favor of endurance, strength or speed. Developing your flexibility will help you to recover your full range of motion as your injury heals. You may even improve your mobility beyond your previous abilities, which may further improve your performance as a runner.

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