Injured During Run: How to maintain your fitness while out of commission
While we all dream of an injury-free life, running can sometimes put us in the position of staying at home, waiting for that full recovery. From minor injuries and discomfort to bigger issues such as tendon inflammation or knee pain, big or small, they need attention from specialized doctors. Every person is different and thus maintaining your fitness while out of commission needs a customized approach.
Treating the problem area
Many career runners work with physicians and use kinesiotherapists to fully recover. Most people have weaker strength around the injured areas. As they try to protect them and feel as little discomfort or pain as possible they will avoid using the injured area. This causes the area to be weaker than usual. Before starting your recovery routine make sure to talk to a doctor and only do these exercises under supervision. Improper form, timing or movements could cause your injury to get worse.
Another mistake some runners make is to force the other leg. So if the left leg is the injured one, they will force the right leg for the harder movements. Some new injuries could arise just from forcing the opposite leg. And this is true not only for runners, but for athletes in general with boxers forcing the other hand, soccer players using the healthy foot for tackling etc. Make sure you don’t fall into this trap. You don’t want to develop the healthy foot, you want to bring the injured foot to a normal level.
Patience is difficult but necessary
Although runners want to get back out there as soon as possible science tells us not to rush recovery. So many top runners ended their careers just because they lacked the patience to let their bodies fully recover. Some of them even developed new injuries because their form was subpar. So have the patience to understand your body needs rest. Communicate to your doctor and understand the mechanisms behind recovery, it will make the whole process easier.
Best exercises used to maintain fitness
There are various exercises to maintain and recover your feet from injury.
- Straight leg raises
Depending on the type and severity of the injury, you can start with straight leg raises. They will help especially those with knee injuries. Nearly 40% of runner injuries are around the knee area, the so called Runner`s knee. So this exercise will help the recovery of muscles and ligaments around the knee joint.
- Laying knee bends
Another exercise use in these circumstances is laying knee bends. This is a basics biomechanics exercise that will work the ability to flex, crucial for knees.
- Ankle movements
Ankle injuries also occur, especially to trail runners. Recovery exercises include ankle extensions and rotation. The first days of exercises should only include basic, simple movements to prevent further injuries. Exercises that have your foot secured on a floor are recommended as they tend to be safer. Band exercises are widely used for ankle recovery and if your specialist recommends them, make sure to make the most of them as they have proven work.
- Tendon and muscle strain exercises
Tendinitis also occurs with runners, especially with Achilles tendon. One exercise used during injuries on the tendon is calf stretches. Make sure you have the proper form while doing this exercise and do not force your tendon right after the injury. Muscle strain also occurs with runners. The cause of these injuries is the overstretching of the muscles. Thigh strain injuries typically take a runner out at least for a few weeks. One exercise used by specialists in the recovery of thigh strain is leg raises. This is one of the best exercises a runner can do, not only after an injury but also on a regular basis.
Give your legs a rest and develop your upper body
If you are a runner you love fitness and a leg injury will probably cause you to feel demoralized. Try to take this time to work on your upper body during the recovery. It will help your overall fitness and mindset. Although runners love cardio exercises, which require your legs, there are options out there for everyone. Ergometers and other rowing-type machines are great for cardio without using your legs. But give your legs a rest and get into a gym to work that upper body.
Make a training schedule so you feel involved and engaged. You can use a push/pull routine. This basically implies you work your pushing muscles (chest and triceps) one day and pulling muscles (back and biceps) the following day. On the third day you can work shoulders and abs. The fourth day you can take off and get some well-deserved rest. Make sure your nutrition is up to standards and decide with your doctor if you need any supplements such as vitamins, minerals, creatine or protein. Make sure you stay well hydrated and you get enough quality sleep.
Being injured doesn’t have to mean you are totally out with physical activity. You can train other parts of your body and still stay in shape. If your doctor recommends a total rest period don’t take this time as a prison sentence and harness your free time to your advantage:
- You can buy some books on running and staying injury-free.
- Read and inform yourself on the latest recommendations in the field.
- Read studies, especially anatomy related and see what actual proof there is for these advices.
- If you have a fitness watch start using it to track your daily progress, the steps you are taking and the calories you burn. This will help speed up the recovery.
Take these steps and try to understand how to keep yourself safe while running, to prevent or limit future injuries. Be safe out there, and mind your legs. They are critical to you!