Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
As runners, our greatest fear is getting injured. There’s a good chance if you are a consistent and avid runner, you’ll eventually run into one. Injuries come and go in various forms and can last for different durations of time. Staying in shape while injured is important, but can also be difficult. Fairfield University’s athletic trainer, Meghan Hampton, says “cross-training will not only keep you in shape when you’re injured but it can be extremely beneficial because you’re strengthening other parts of your body that you wouldn’t normally.” So, if your injury prohibits you from running, alternative options like aqua jogging, biking, and the elliptical can be effective. Here’s why.
Aqua Jogging: Running in the pool is an easy way for rehabilitation. Not only is it a great cardio workout, but you’re also avoiding the impact of running on a hard surface. The water resistance is stronger than the air outside, which in turns works your muscles more. The key to this form of cross-training is to make sure you mimic the way you would run outside. Avoid treading water! It’s essential to keep your upper body as straight as possible and move your arms and legs in the same motion you would as if you were running. Remember the harder you move your arms and legs, the more effective the workout is. You’ll definitely feel the cardio!
Related: Sore Or Injured? Here Are The Clues
Biking: This is simply a change of pace from mimicking the running related alternatives. As runners, it’s hard to go from scenic runs to stationary machines at the gym when dealing with an injury. Cycling when you’re injured allows you to stay in shape while also experiencing the outdoors! It’s a great form of aerobic exercise that gets your blood flowing. This form of cross training is low impact on your joints and strengthens the muscles that running doesn’t always target, such as your hips, quads and knees. Biking also increases your turnover because the movement of your legs is at a quicker speed. And who wouldn’t want to become faster?
Elliptical: It’s very similar to running without the force and pounding of the concrete. The minimum force on your joints is perfect for healing knee and calf injuries. Much like biking, this type of cross-train requires low impact on your legs and it works different parts of your muscles, like your quads and hips. Strengthening these muscles is vital for runners. Another positive aspect of the elliptical is its ability to work your upper body. When exercising on the machine, you’re also incorporating your arms and your core, which enhances posture. Maintaining an upright position can positively affect your running stride.
Injuries can be a real pain for runners—excuse the pun. However, a cross-training alternative and a positive mentality will help you get through most of them. By keeping active and working your muscles in different ways, you’ll be able to stay in shape and come back even stronger.