How Runners Can Get Fitter While Injured

There is never a good time to have a forced running break, but the timing of this one was frustrating.  I had just signed up for the Richmond marathon and was ready to ramp up my mileage in preparation for training.

Instead, I’ve been cross training for a month letting my tibial tendon recover from too much stress.  In the process, I have been determined to maintain as much running fitness as possible.

From the many articles and research I’ve read on this topic, I was surprised to learn that runners can actually improve their fitness while injured.  Some runners even come back to run pr’s!

Here are a few reasons why:

  1. You can get in more interval training due to the lower impact activities.
  2. Cross training strengthens the whole body which can lead to more overall power.
  3. You can focus on running specific strength training.

My first week, I focused on spinning and long walks, but it takes twice as long to walk the mileage that I had been running so I soon joined a gym to use the elliptical and pool.

Sprints and interval training can only be done once, maybe twice a week on a run without risking injury.  With the elliptical or aqua jogging, it can be more frequent. I’m aiming for at least 3 speed sessions each week.  Here are a few sample workouts:

Aqua Jogging Sprints (in deep water with a belt or dumbbells)

Warm up for 5-10 minutes.  “Sprint” for 2 minutes hard x 5 with 1 minute of easy running between.  Jog 5 minutes easy then repeat sprints.  Cool down.

Aqua Jogging 1200s

Warm up for 5-10 minutes of easy jogging in the water.  Run hard for 5 minutes, easy for 2 minutes x 4-5 rounds.  Cool down with 5 minutes of easy jogging.

*Note: Aqua jogging won’t necessarily be moving your legs as fast as you would on land because of the added resistance but you can get in a really good workout with minimal impact.

Elliptical Sprints

Warm up for 10-15 minutes on varied terrain (I like to choose random).  Sprint for 1 minute, run easy for 1 minute, x 10-12.  Cool down for 5-10 minutes.

Elliptical 400s

Warm up for 10-15 minutes.  Run as hard as you can for 2 minutes, jog easy for 1 minute x 5.  Jog for 5 minutes then repeat the intervals.  Cool down for 5-10 minutes.

Steady state “easy run”

Swimming or cycling are excellent options to replace the easy run.  You can get in a good aerobic workout and stay in fat burning mode while still working harder than you would on an easy run on land.  Rather than a 4-6 mile steady state run, swim for 45 minutes or bike for an hour with moderate resistance.  Swimming forces you to improve your breathing and works the whole body. Biking gives you a break from the running motion but can work the quads with a small incline.

Putting it all together

You still want to keep in mind the easy/hard principle.  To get the most from your exercise routine, your body needs easier days so it can absorb the work and repair itself.

To keep the hard days hard and the easy days easy, add strength on the sprint days and keep the steady state days at a lower intensity.

For a mock long run, bike, swim, hike, use the elliptical or do a combo of any of them for 2 hours total.

Sample week:

Monday: Sprints on the elliptical + ST

Tuesday: 45 minute steady swim

Wednesday: Aqua jogging sprints + ST

Thursday: 1 hour steady spin

Friday: Sprints on the elliptical + ST

Saturday: “Long run”- 1 hour elliptical, 1 hour spin

Sunday: rest

I’m combining a lot of these workout theories in my own cross training and will begin adding some running back in next week.  I feel fitter than ever in my overall fitness, although I realize my running specific fitness will have to catch up for a few weeks as I rebuild time on my feet again.

For more on how aqua jogging can maintain your running fitness, check out this article and additional pool workouts.

Runner’s World also has a 9 week plan for maintaining or improving fitness while injured.

Note: The activities that you are cleared to do will depend on your specific injury.

Have you ever taken time off from running and come back stronger?

After my first marathon, I had a stress reaction and took 10 weeks off! I ran my first 5k two weeks later and set prs in the half, 10k and 5k in the following months.

Do you worry about losing running fitness when injured?

I still do every time! But it always works out okay.  So far, I’ve always come back stronger.  Let’s see if we can say that again after this break!

 

Running Contradictions

Isn’t it crazy how often we hear or read contradictory advice? This is true in both nutrition and running, but lately as I recover from an inflamed tendon I’m getting a lot of it and I thought I’d share a few:

Buy orthotics vs. run in zero drop shoes: Because we’ve determined it’s my tight calves stressing my tendon, my PT wants me to get fitted for orthotics to run in going forward.  Meanwhile, other online advice recommends the opposite- a zero drop shoe to encourage the full extension of each step. How do I decide which to try?

Run through the injury vs. stop running: Several articles claim that it’s fine to run through this injury (which I did for over a year) while others say you must stop. Ultimately, I decided for me I’d rather stop and let it fully heal then play the on-again, off-again came with my shin.

Run less vs run more to improve: I’ve experimented with both of these approaches. While I feel like I improve with more miles (and higher mileage is especially key for marathoners), if it’s going to lead to injury than I’m better off at a lower mileage with cross training.  I’m still debating how to train for the Richmond marathon.

Running improves the joints and is good for the body vs. running leads to degenerative wear and tear: Obviously, rehabbing from a running injury leads to much of the latter… my physical therapist and a trainer at the gym are firm believers that running will tear down your body and you only have so much time before you feel the effects of it (unless you are bio-mechanically perfect).  Meanwhile, Runner’s World put out an article on the benefits of running for life.

I confess, every time I battle a running injury I wonder (again) if running distance is the best choice for me.  It’s certainly not for everyone, and I am feeling much more fit and balanced lately with the greater variety of training.

I know there are so many more…

What running contradictions have you heard?

How do you advocate for yourself and determine what the best fit is for you?

I am linking up with SuzRachelLora, and Debbie for Running Coaches CornerPattyErika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, NicoleAnnmarieMichelle, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday.

 

Pool Cross Training + Meal Planning

Happy Father’s Day to the dads out there!

Thank you for the aqua jogging advice! I’m happy to report I have figured it out.  Getting into the deep water made a huge difference, and I was able to last up to 45 minutes.  It actually wasn’t as boring as I expected.

Because of the pool, I decided to join the gym.  I think I’d like to keep one aqua jogging “run” in per week when I ramp up for Richmond, and honestly, I am having so much fun in the pool! It’s really nice to mix things up.

Here’s the rundown of cross training:

Sunday:  Kickboxing

Monday:  3 mile walk/run (am) + 1 mile swim (pm)

My PT gave me the okay to mix in some running intervals so I did, but honestly I want my angry tendon to heal asap so I’m thinking I’ll stay off it for another week.

Tuesday: 50 minute elliptical with 10 x 1 minute sprints (7 total miles) + upper body strength

Wednesday: 30 minute aqua jogging + 1 mile swim (about 40 minutes)

Thursday: 55 minute elliptical with 12 x 1 minute sprints (7.5 miles) + 15 minute strength circuit

Friday: 45 minute aqua jogging + 20 minute swim

Saturday: 30 minute spin + 45 elliptical for a mock “long run”

 

Meal planning:

Sunday: Father’s Day out!

Monday: Quinoa power bowl with Lemon Tahini dressing

Tuesday:  Grilled salmon, asparagus and potato slices

Wednesday: Last day of school party with friends (taking a fruit salad)

Thursday: Chicken Fajitas

Friday: Leftovers or dinner at the pool

Saturday: Travel day

 

Do you dread or enjoy breaks from running? I used to always dread them, but honestly, I’m loving the variety right now and in some ways feel fitter than when I’m just running, running, running.

What’s your favorite cross training activity?

I’m linking up with Fitness and Food with Ilka and Angela, and Tricia and HoHo from The Weekly Wrap!

What I’m Eating for Breakfast This Week + Learning to AquaJog

This week, I made a giant batch of Veggie Quinoa Salad.  It was intended for lunch, but I found myself eating it for breakfast instead! I quickly threw an egg on top and love a breakfast that comes together in two minutes flat.

I shared the recipe for Breakfast Quinoa Salad here!

Besides getting inspired in the kitchen again, I’m finding myself trying all sorts of cross training lately.

I got HIIT cardio in on Saturday and kick-boxing on Sunday.  I even broke a board!

When they announced what we were doing, I was initially terrified.  But I knew it was largely mental.  If I went up determined to break it, it would break.  It helped that we wrote our barrier on the board… limits, fear and injury were on mine and I smashed through it.  It. Felt. Amazing.

Then on Monday, I took advantage of a free trial at a local gym to have access to a pool again.  The plan was to aqua jog for 45 minutes or so, but I did one lap and called it. Instead, I saw a mile and felt almost as accomplished as a good run.

I didn’t understand why I was barely moving when I tried to jog in the water and what I was doing wrong. I also didn’t feel like it was giving my feet any relief.  I came home and watched several ‘how to’ videos and realized I probably need to find deep water.  So maybe I’ll be doing some aqua jogging at the pool this summer while my kids swim.

The 3-4 foot water wasn’t cutting it for me, although you can aqua jog in that depth as well.

What’s next? I think I’m going to get to the pool as much as I can before my free membership runs out, and then continue with a mix of elliptical, bike, strength and swimming for a few more weeks.

Have you tried aqua jogging? In normal or deep water?

Does your breakfast consist of traditional morning foods, or do you like to step outside the box?

I am linking up with SuzRachelLora, and Debbie for Running Coaches CornerPattyErika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, NicoleAnnmarieMichelle, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday.

 

(Cross) Training Recap + Meal Planning

Happy Sunday! Although school is still in session, summer weather is definitely here.  We got to the pool for the first time Friday after school, and I’m looking forward to some lazy summer days ahead.

Training wise, my shins are feeling great! So that’s exciting.  However, did I mention I was also dealing with a mild case of plantar fasciitis? I’m falling apart over here! So I need to give that a few more weeks.

Here’s the rundown of cross training:

Sunday:  45 minute strength (Jillian’s NMTZ)

Monday:  spin class

Tuesday: 4 mile walk (am) + 3 mile walk (pm)

Wednesday: 5 mile hilly walk + short strength session

Thursday: 45 minute spin with 2 x 5 minute rounds of tabatas

Friday: 4 walk (am) + 3.5 walk (pm)

Saturday:  1-2 hours of HIIT training (broken up in many segments) at an instructor training for Max Fitness…  long story, but there’s one opening in our town and when I chatted with the owners, I was asked to come on as an instructor and I figured, why not?  I only have a few hours I can give to them, but it should be really fun!

If it’s true that 30 minutes of HIIT is better than a 60 minute treadmill run, then I got my 2 hour long run in!

Round two of training today with kick boxing and strength training… wish me luck!

Meal planning:

Sunday: Chicken sausage and black beans in the crockpot

Monday: Quinoa power bowl with Lemon Tahini dressing

Tuesday:  Sushi (we like to make our own)

Wednesday: Grill whole chicken, veggie kebabs and potatoes

Thursday: Leftovers into burritos

Friday: BBQ Chicken Flatbread Pizza

Saturday: Picnic dinner at the pool

 

Have you done a HIIT class?

Any tips for keeping plantar fasciitis at bay?

I’m linking up with Fitness and Food with Ilka and Angela, and Tricia and HoHo from The Weekly Wrap!

Healthy Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

All this rainy weather put me in the mood to bake! Last week, we made Blueberry Mango Muffins (gluten free and low sugar) …

and this week, it’s banana bread.

I like mixing up the flours to make gluten free options, but if you want a whole wheat option, check out this awesome banana bread with whole wheat pastry flour.

Because of the added protein in the almond meal, this bread is low glycemic and low in sugar with only a little bit of maple syrup, yet delicious!

Healthy Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c. melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 c. unsweetened applesauce
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/4 c. milk of choice
  • 1/3 c. maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 c. almond meal
  • 1/2 c. rolled oats
  • 1/2 c. gluten free or whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1-2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c. dark chocolate chips

Blend wet ingredients together in a small bowl.  Stir dry ingredients (almond meal through salt) together in large bowl.  Add in the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.  Stir in chocolate chips or other add ins of your choice (chopped walnuts, coconut flakes, etc).

Bake in a preheated oven at 325 degress for 50 minutes or until lightly brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Let it cool for another 10 minutes.

For runners and athletes, muffins are ideal immediately after a workout when your body wants to quickly replenish the glycogen stores.  Enjoy!

Do you like to experiment with flours in baking?

What are your favorite add ins for banana bread?

Two weeks of cross training + Kombucha

Hi friends! It’s been a whirlwind of a weekend.  We had a funeral for my husband’s aunt on Saturday, which was emotional and yet beautiful, difficult but also healing. The acapella four part harmony of the congregation was breathtaking.  I’ve missed that full sound.  I was really impressed that my 7 year old was holding her own on the melody while my husband and I switched to the bass and alto lines.   A highlight for me was hearing my husband and his brother sang the final song from the back…. they are talented brothers.

His aunt was a really amazing woman.  She was an artist, photographer and doula, among other things.  She was constantly rescuing junk and repurposing it into beautiful handmade books, felted work, bags, scarves and dream catchers.  She followed me closely on social media and was also the person who encouraged me to look into nutrition and health coaching 6 years ago.  I don’t know that I would be running my own business if it wasn’t for her.  So yes, a remarkable woman.  (She even had a few running awards from the 80’s!)

Life is unpredictable.  The timing was pretty ideal, as it reminded me that not running is pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

I miss running but I’m staying busy with other projects and cross training… here’s a sample of how the last two weeks broke down:

Monday: This was when I actually had pain on the run and knew I needed a break.  I switched my workout to a spin class and 5-10 minutes with the TRX.

Tuesday: 1 hour easy spin

Wednesday: bootcamp class (am) + 1 hour walk (pm)

Thursday: 1 hour spin

Friday: Walking NYC on our day date… I estimated 7-9 total miles

Saturday: Short hike with hubs + spin class

Sunday: 1 hour walk

Week two

Monday: nada

Tuesday: boot camp class (am) + 1 hour walk (pm)

Wednesday: 90 minute spin

Thursday: boot camp class + 1 hour walk

Friday: 45 easy spin + short strength circuit

Saturday: spin 1 hour

Sunday: 45 minute strength circuit

Can I just tell you how tired I am of the spin bike? Granted, I’ve been doing most of it on my own to save time traveling to the gym, and a class would probably help.  But I’m also trying to find access to a pool this week to mix things up.

Overall, I’m hanging in there.  I really miss running! But I know it will be there for me in a few weeks and I can do this.

Over the weekend, my cousin-in-law and fellow Kombucha lover brought me a baby Scoby so I started my own batch yesterday.  At $3+ a bottle, it was becoming an expensive habit! I’m excited to see how this turns out.  (For those interested, I’m following these instructions).

Between that, my husband’s saurerkraut and his sourdough bread, we’ve got the fermented foods down! We used to make yogurt too… maybe I need to give that another go…

Do you make any fermented foods?

What’s the longest running break you’ve had to take?

 

I’m linking up with Fitness and Food with Ilka and Angela, and Tricia and HoHo from The Weekly Wrap!

How much time should I take off?

Hi friends!

How was the long weekend? We had a little kid free time Friday and Saturday (thanks to my parents) so we went into the city Friday night for dinner and a show.  Saturday we made omelets and went hiking.

Having a quiet house is such a nice treat! The rest of the weekend was spent catching up with family, including lots and lots of cousins.  We all came home simultaneously refreshed and exhausted!

Before we left, I was able to get a few more answers around the shin pain that has been coming and going for over a year.  When I saw my PT on Friday, he determined that it’s an inflamed tendon.

I was initially relieved, as that sounds much better than any kind of bone stress.  But when I asked if I should rest it for 1-2 weeks or more like 4-6 weeks, he said the longer the better.

Basically, I’ve been managing the pain all year by backing off for a day or two when I feel it and then running pain free again for a few weeks but it always comes back.  The only way to get rid of it for good is to give it the longer time frame to fully heal.

It’s been a week so far, and I feel good and part of me is itching to run.  The other part of me knows I need to be smart and patient and make sure the shin gets the full time to heal, so I’m shifting my focus to getting stronger and maintaining my cardio fitness with spinning and some walking.

Instead of going to boot camp once a week, I’m aiming for twice a week plus a Barre or Pilates workout.

At boot camp last week I got to try pike push ups- not a move I would have attempted a year ago!

We also have a ten day Europe trip coming up at the end of June, and it won’t be easy to run there either so if I wait the full 6 weeks, it will be early July just as we get back from our trip.

I know that’s the best decision, it’s just a bit frustrating.  But many of you have been there! Any words of advice on how to pass the time and not go stir crazy? My body is already acting like I’m tapering but I guess it will figure it all out soon enough!

How long have you been off for injury? How did you maintain your fitness?

Any tips for passing the time?

Doing less now to get stronger later

Hi friends,

After a really strong 12 miler Saturday, I felt the same old shin tenderness pop back up again.  I ran Sunday and felt okay.  On Monday, I headed to a trail thinking that would be a better option but it started to hurt on the downhill portion so I quit one mile in to be conservative, and finished up on the spin bike instead.

I’ve been here before, as many of you know! So I’m not panicking.  I know I’ve caught it before it progresses to anything serious.  Typically a day or two of cross training does the trick.

However, now that I’m officially registered to run the Richmond marathon in November, I don’t want to be training when I’m walking the line (in terms of injury), if that makes sense.

I’d rather pull way back now so that I go into the marathon training refreshed and strong.

I saw my chiro/sports doctor yesterday who confirmed (as always) that I am a mess, ha! My calves had lots of knots, my back and hip flexors were very tight, and my mobility was pretty sad.

It’s amazing how good I feel after one treatment.  I could twist and turn my neck and back significantly further afterwards, my hips were back in place and the knots were worked out. I’m realizing I probably need to have a regular date at his office through the fall to stay balanced.

The good news is, he can tell I’m stronger in my upper body and core than a year ago, and once we get everything working together and firing together, that will improve my overall efficiency and power.

He did not tell me I had to take time off or how much time off I should consider, but my gut is thinking 1-2 weeks to be conservative.

I’ll stick to spinning, strength training and Pilates/Barre.  Plus some walking.  And then build back up from there.

I realized I have been training pretty hard since November, and started to feel beat up after the half pr in March.  I took minimal down time and then started working with a coach, (who, by the way, has been amazing!)

I feel like I’m training smarter than I have in the past, but I never gave my body all the recovery time it was asking for after a winter of intense training.

So that’s where I’m at… battling a semi injury-prone body but determined to come out ahead!

Do you build in weeks of the year to cut way back or switch to cross training?

Are you injury prone or are you one of the lucky few?

I am linking up with SuzRachel, Lora, and Debbie for Running Coaches CornerPatty, Erika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, Nicole, Annmarie, Michelle, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday.

 

5k Training and Meal Planning

Happy Sunday! Training picked up this week, with the shift now to a 5k in mid-June and possibly a one mile race as well.  Here’s the rundown:

Sunday:  5 recovery miles no watch, probably 9:30-10:00 pace

Monday:  7.25 easy run on a hilly route, ending with a flat mile or two (9:42 –> 7:58 pace) + mini Barre workout at home

Tuesday: 50 minutes easy cycling

Wednesday: Interval run (2 mile warm up, 8 x 2 minutes at 6:20 pace, 2 mile cool down) + 5 minutes of core and push ups

This was the first really warm morning and I struggled to find the correct pace.  My first few were too slow, then several were too fast, and I just never felt great! But in retrospect, my paces were better than I thought (6:30 to 6:08 range for the repeats).

Thursday: 7 easy (8:40 ave) at 5:30 am which is as early as it gets for me! But I do admit, I love having this done before the kids are even waking up.

Friday: rest!

Saturday:  12 miles with first ten at 7:50-8 range and last two at 7:20-7:30

I couldn’t believe how good I felt on this run!  The miles were ticking away in the 7:30-7:40 range so I rolled with it, and final two were 7:18 and 7:10 for an overall 7:36 average.  That used to be a goal half marathon pace a few years ago, so it feels pretty amazing to hit it relatively easily on a training run!

I’m meeting a local client for a few miles this morning and looking forward to some recovery miles.

Meal planning:

Sunday: Chicken sausage and black beans in the crockpot

Monday: Quinoa power bowl with Lemon Tahini dressing

Tuesday:  Leftovers

Wednesday: Baked salmon one pot meal from Cotter Crunch

Thursday: Grill burgers, veggie burgers, corn on the cob, watermelon (girls favorites)

Friday: Date night (girls to grandparents for a sleepover!)

Saturday: Date day

And I really need to try this Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Dip from Paleo Running Momma!

Have you ever done a one mile race?

Are you a sweets or salty person? Or both?

I’m linking up with Fitness and Food with Ilka and Angela, and Tricia and HoHo from The Weekly Wrap!