Unfortunately with running sometimes comes injury. This is probably more prevalent in areas like South Florida where there is little trail (or soft) running and primarily concrete sidewalks – where the pounding on your joints is heavy. It takes a definite toll on the body, the bones, tendons, joints, muscles, etc. I can recall in high school, my mom offering to schedule pedicures and foot massages to ease some of the stress on my very active feet.
With injury, any athlete (but especially a runner) has to take time off, cross train, ice and rest the problem area, etc. For runners, the best cross training of course are those exercises that keep the heart rate up and the endurance high (i.e. swimming, biking). In fact, as I tell my high school runners, there were athletes in college that I knew of that literally did 90% of their training in the pool or on the bike and then competed in meets. Their bodies were either extremely fragile and/or they were coming back from an injury and didn’t want to risk aggravating a sore knee or tendon. But the point being – they did well! They were able to keep their endurance up just with cross training in the pool and/or on the bike.
So, running is always going to be the best form of training for a runner. But biking and swimming aren’t so bad. In order to help those that are wondering what to do on the bike or in the pool, I’ve include some suggestions.
- Biking: Pretty self explanatory here. Just get on a bike and ride! Don’t pay attention to mileage though. Odds are you will make it much farther than you would running. Stay on the bike for 8 minutes for every mile you intended to run. (For example, if you were supposed to do a 5 mile run, get on the bike for 40 minutes.) Note that this should be strenuous enough biking that it gets your heart rate up and you sweating!
- Swimming or Pool Running: Swimming is a great alternative to running. Some say it is the best form of exercise. You get nearly every muscle in your body working; it builds endurance; and best of all – there is no impact or pounding on the body. But for us runners, a great alternative is Pool Running. And I’ve spent a lot of time this past Track season with my high school runners in the pool – running. Here’s how to do it: Get in the deep end where your feet are not hitting the bottom of the pool and run. In other words, tread water, but simultaneously keep your farm. Move your arms and legs as if you were running on the street. Keep your back straight and shoulders high. It doesn’t sound bad but I promise you will feel it quickly. It not only works on endurance (I was out of breadth after the warm-up), but you will feel muscles that you didn’t feel before (including your abs). Again, just like biking – 8 minutes for every one mile you planned on running. If you are replacing a hard track workout in the pool, I’d recommend adding a few reps and picking up the speed of your running just like you would on dry land. Sprinting is very possible in the pool! I should mention the aqua belt that many people recommend – if you have one definitely use it…as it will help your form and you can still get in just as good a workout. If you don’t have one, not to worry. Investing in one is optional. Pool Running is interesting though – as good swimmers typically find it easier to float than non-swimmers. But try it out and let me know how you did!
Here is a good article about pool running and ways to make it fun from Runners World Magazine. (Running in the pool – and being in one place for upwards of an hour – can get pretty boring. And bringing an iPod in the water is not such a good idea!)
And here is a pretty good video of what Pool Running should look like. (This guy will have to do until I have a chance to videotape me or someone else running underwater!)