adelaide running

10 Alternatives to Running When You're Injured


Sometimes injuries are a blessing in disguise.  They force you to re-examine your training style and open you up to other possibilities in the way you go about doing things. 

Unfortunately running injuries are common and being forced into a lay off for a few weeks/months can be quite daunting.  Being told you can't run can be a serious blow to a runner's sense of self.  You suddenly realise how addicted you are to the physical and emotional payoffs that running brings. 

Most runners tell me that there is nothing else quite like the endorphin buzz that running gives you.

Why runners are vulnerable to injury

One of the downfalls of running is that it's very repetitive and demanding on certain parts of the body that are vulnerable to overload.  Common areas include: knees, hips, ITB's, achilles, calf muscles and hamstring issues. 

Most runners generally have very good pain thresholds.  This comes as a blessing AND a curse.  Niggles that are ignored over a long period of time tend do have a tendency to develop into something more serious. 

If you are in pain, there is a good chance your Physio will recommend taking a short break from training to allow your tissues to recover and heal properly.


To help you get through your injury, try the following exercises, which are designed to:

1.  Maintain your cardio-vascular fitness

2.  Encourage blood flow and oxygen to assist the healing process

3.  Re-build your foundation so that you come back better and stronger that before

DISCLAIMER** Of course check with your physio to get the green light before trying any of these exercises**

Nutritious Movement

If you compare exercise to eating, running is like eating dessert and your foundation exercises (below) are like your main course. 

It's not healthy to only be eating dessert - running should be a part of wide base of 'nutritious movement'. 

This approach will sustain you and help you find longevity in your running career. 

1.  Swimming

We all know the benefits of getting in the water: the non-weight bearing movement of your body that helps decompresses the joints and allows you a full body workout without the stress of gravity wearing on your body. 

Try and build up to some intervals, for example 10 x 100m.  This will really help optimise your breathing and cardio-respiratory performance.

Even if you don't like swimming, just being in the water will be beneficial, assisting recovery.  Standing in the cold water at the beach in the middle of winter is refreshing and surprisingly therapeutic. 


2.  Kettlebell Strength Workout

A solid kettlebell workout is the closest thing I've come to experiencing the high that matches up with a good run.  Everyone should own a kettlebell or two.  If you have never tried, find a good personal trainer and get them to show you the basics over a few sessions.  Try swings, squats, lunges and other variations to get your body moving and re-build your capacity


3.  Pilates

Research tells us the biggest risk factor for an injury is a previous injury.  Pain and injury leads to compensatory movement patterning that helps us get through the short term but isn't an ideal long term solution.  Pilates help you to learn the principles of dynamic core alignment, so you will create a solid foundation that naturally leads to optimal performance in sport and life. 

Term 3 Pilates kicks of July 26th - Reserve your place here


4.  Stair workout

Stronger glutes = better running and lower risk of re-injury.  Stairs will also send your heart rate sky rocketing, boosting your VO2 max.



5.  Hiking

Hiking some trails in the great outdoors has a few benefits for runners:

  • build better balance on uneven terrain
  • breathe some fresh air
  • learn how to 'slow down' and enjoy the scenery
  • get to know your running friends better - talking is easier when you're not struggling to breathe!


6.  Boxing

Stressed?  Angry?  Let your fists do the talking.  Boxing will challenge your cardio-vascular system like nothing else.  Working with a trainer will quickly fine tune your power and precision and bring an intensity to your workout that may rival your running training.

7.  HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)

Try something like the 7 minute workout or ask your local personal trainer to design you a program.  Add a challenge by using a foam roller or Swiss Ball to your workout.  Try a combination of burpees, squats, step-ups and mountain climbers for starters.


8.  Yoga

Reset your fundamental movement patterning, connect with your breathing and jump start your healing process by activating the para-sympathetic nervous system.  Most runners could benefit from finding a little bit more flexibility.  Restorative / yin yoga is particularly recommended for runners to keep their bodies balanced.

9.  Stand-Up Paddle-boarding

Stand-up paddle boarding is an ideal way to strengthen your core (obliques in particular that are important for runners) and also gives your quads a nice burn.  Also will improve your balance (especially if you find some fun waves to have a go at!).

10.  Elliptical / Cross Trainer

Minimal weight-bearing, using the elliptical machine is an nice way to get your blood and oxygen flowing.  It's also an easy way to keep an eye on your heart rate and push some challenging intervals sessions...crank up the resistance!


11.  Bonus Tip: Avoid Cycling

Despite it's popularity, I DON'T advise cycling as a good alternative to running as cycling strongly activates the hip flexors, and can mess up your muscle balance around your hip, knee and lower back. 

I would advise your to either choose cycling or running as your main form of exercise.  If you are triathlete, there are some specific exercises you can do to help reduce the negative effects of cycling.  You can email directly and I will give you the details.

Over to you...

What form of exercise have you found most beneficial when you can't run? 

I'd love to hear your thoughts below.


3 Tips To Running Without Knee Pain

Knee pain is really common among runners (about 40% will experience in a given year). 

So...rather than ignoring it and hope its goes are 3 simple tips to help you keep your knees tracking smoothly and efficiently :

1.  Increase your cadence

Research suggest a small increase in your cadence (increasing step frequency by 5%) leads to a decrease in ground reaction force

Essentially, shortening your stride takes the stress off your legs and taps into your 'spring system' that is more efficient and less impact on your knees. 

The average runner's cadence is approx 160 steps per minute, and the research shows increasing to 170-180 can make a big difference.

Be warned though, this style of running will put a greater load on your cardio-vascular system - so you may need to keep an eye on your heart rate and take breaks as needed.

Some GPS watches track your cadence.

Otherwise you can download a free metronome to help you.  I like to use the metronome for a few minutes at the start of a run to help get my rhythm in place...starting at 170bmp and then up to 180bmp for a few minutes.


2.  Strengthen your glutes

"Strong glutes makes everything better" - Perry Nickelston

"Strong glutes makes everything better" - Perry Nickelston

The glutes are the main protectors of the knee.  When they become weak or inhibited they allow excess pressure on the knee joint and the muscles that surround it such as the ITB. 

When running, the glutes should take most of the load.   The gluteus maximus is the biggest and most powerful muscle in the body.  But in the presence of pain, injury or excessive sitting it 'switches off' and other muscles are forced to compensate.

Here are some of our favourite exercises to get your glutes back online and functioning:

  • clam
  • bridge
  • single leg bridge
  • reverse lunge
  • squats
  • split squats

If you think your glutes might need some work...then you should join our weekly Pilates here to reserve your place (spots are limited). 

Bridge:   Tuck the pelvis under lift your hips - look for a straight line between knees, hip and shoulders.  Breathe and relax the shoulders.  Hold for 1 minute x 3 sets.

Bridge:  Tuck the pelvis under lift your hips - look for a straight line between knees, hip and shoulders.  Breathe and relax the shoulders.  Hold for 1 minute x 3 sets.

3.  Foam roll AFTER you run

The muscles in your legs have to work pretty damn hard during a run - absorbing up to three times your body weight every time you land. 

Muscles such as the outer quads, ITB, calf, hamstrings and adductors can get tight and knotted up and have a lot of trouble relaxing back to 'normal' after a hard run. 

This tightness can lead to increased pressure on the patella (knee cap) and cause ongoing tracking issues with the knee. 

A quick full body tune-up can be completed in less than 90 seconds (see video below) and help iron out tight spots around the knee.  

Of course, if you are tight in a particular area, you should spend longer working out the knots.

Is Pain or Injury keeping you from being as active and healthy as you want?