According to a recent study by the Sports Medicine Institute, nearly 65 percent of all runners get injured each year -- so what do you do when you can't run?
It’s going to happen. You cannot avoid it. Sorry, it just does. According to a recent study by the Sports Medicine Institute, nearly 65 percent of all runners get injured each year, with an average down time of five to 10 percent of normal training volume per year. Some injuries take longer… much longer.
So what’s a run-aholic to do? You know who you are. You’re the one who can’t talk to your spouse in the morning until you’ve had your daily “5.”Your children and your friends avoid you like Europe’s Black Plague until you’ve finished your post-run stretching routine. Even the dog knows there will be no walk until after your 5k on Saturday… which is EVERY Saturday. Yeah, YOU!
Well, here’s the good news. If you start planning now, your down-time won’t be so awful, your family and friends might still recognize you and you may actually gain fitness rather than lose fitness. In fact, if you act now, you could even minimize or eliminate that pending injury all-together.
Back in 2005, I’d just completed a great year of training and racing. Recently having entered the “Masters” category (over age 40), I revved up the training and started racing cross country again, planned and completed two marathons, and had rediscovered track racing. But by early 2006, the wheels (literally) were coming off. A double stress fracture along with shattered sesamoid bone which required surgery on my right foot, had sent me to the sidelines for eight months. EIGHT MONTHS!
How did I survive? I had planned for injury down-time before it happened by familiarizing myself with gym equipment, and had developed a routine of use. Depending on your injury, the severity, your doctor’s instructions and your level of patience, you can maintain fitness and be ready to come back to running sooner than you might otherwise.
Cross training activities such as swimming, pool running, biking (stationary, spinning, road cycling), Concept 2 Rowers (my personal favorite), treadmill hill walking, elliptical machines, circuit training, etc… can and do provide great workouts. Honest. But they all take some practice in order to be efficient. Find a good trainer who knows runners. Take some fitness classes on weight training, yoga, or tai chi. Anything that keeps you moving!
So before you get bit by the injury bug, experiment on different pieces of cross training equipment and see what you can tolerate. Lay out a plan for when the inevitable happens. Does your physical therapist have equipment you can access? How about a gym or Y membership? Invest in a piece of equipment or even borrow a fellow running junkies’ stuff while he or she is out pounding the roads. Oh, and even start incorporating some of it now, before that injury-in-waiting occurs.
In other words, know in advance what your options are and practice those options while you’re healthy. The frustration levels, though not completely gone, will probably remain minimal. And… you’ll be ready to hit the roads, tracks and trails much sooner than if you had just completely annoyed your loved ones.
By the way, when I did return to running after my eight month hiatus, I was racing again within six months (and actually won my first race back) and had developed a new sense of patience and strength. And my family allowed me to move back in the house.
Former standout Lock Haven University runner Andy Shearer is a member of the Middletown Athletic Club, the Greater Philadelphia Track Club and USA Track and Field.