Injured? How to keep fit and stay motivated during recovery

Every runner dreads getting injured. It can be hard to stay positive when you're unable to run, but now is not the time to lose hope. Here’s how to maintain fitness and stay motivated while you recover.

Injured? How to keep fit and stay motivated during recovery

Don't get down... refocus!

Keep to your training regime mentality. If you have a training log, write what you’re doing and log the recovery. Team GB's Olympic marathon star, Jo Pavey, whose career has been peppered with injury breaks, says, ‘I don’t get down, I refocus.’

She allowed the same amount of time and put in as much effort into her aqua jogging sessions as she did when she was running 120 miles per week in the run-up to London 2012. 'I like to train twice a day, so if I couldn’t run at all, I’d go to the pool in the morning and do a hard session like 10 x 3 minutes, then I’d get onto the cross-trainer in the evening.'

Get in the water

Aqua jogging is a great way to keep going when you’re out with injury. It’s non-impact and you use the same muscles you do on land, without aggravating the injury. And it’s an effective and hard work out. Working out in water gives you as much as 12 times the resistance as on land – making it tougher if you push it.

'To get the best from an aqua session, I just go as hard as I can and I don’t worry too much about technique,' says Pavey. 'Some people say you should have a higher knee lift, but I find that if I do that, I don’t get out of breath.'

An aqua-jogger belt and resistance equipment can be picked up from aquajogger.co.uk. You can even invest in an underwater treadmill (if you’ve got a spare £15K!) from hydrophysio.co.uk.

Strengthen weak areas

Keep motivated by doing resistance work to build a foundation of strength that’ll help you recover from your existing injury, as well as preventing future problems occurring.

Lewis Rawson, specialist physiotherapist at Perform For Sport, an elite sports medicine centre in Spire Bushey Hospital, Hertfordshire says, 'The glutes are a problem for runners – medius, minimus and sometimes maximus. And consequently problems occur in the anterior knee, ITB and tibialis posterior.

'If your knee drifts in or out as you do a single-leg squat, there may be a weakness,' he explains. 'Doing single-leg squats and aiming to keep the knee over the second toe will help to strengthen the muscles and prevent future problems.'

As you recover and get stronger, you can begin to add weights to single-leg squats.

Time to go minimalist?

Nicki Waterman, a personal trainer to the stars and runner for over 20 years, discovered barefoot running following a fall, which resulted in agonising injuries and back pain. She’s now running 10K, six days a week, and only wears Vibram Fivefingers.

'I found that running barefoot meant I could feel every change of running surface – dirt to grass to pavement – and my movements adjusted accordingly. I could feel what I was running on, without the pain of being entirely barefoot. I was lighter on my feet, which came naturally, and my knees could tell the difference. Has running barefoot worked? In short, yes. I’m now back running 10K on a daily basis and I wear my barefoot trainers from the moment I wake up till when I go to bed at night. After each and every mile I run, one important question never once crosses my mind: 'Why do my knees hurt?'

Lewis Rawson says: 'Following analysis, we often have to get the runner to completely change the shoes they’re wearing. Most runners fall into two camps. There are those who don’t analyse their gait and there are those who over analyse. In the second camp, runners often wear shoes with too high an arch and too much cushioning. And there’s a belief that all pronation is bad, but remember pronation is necessary (unless you’re a heel striker, forefoot or a barefoot runner) in order to absorb shock.'

Redress the balance

Work on muscle imbalances. A good physio or personal trainer can help identify any weaknesses and imbalances that are the common reason behind injuries. ‘Addressing imbalances means you can get back in shape and run better than ever,’ says Rawson. ‘Common areas where you may find imbalances are the glutes and hip flexors.’

Try some foam rolling exercises to help iron out your weaknesses.

Work on your core

At Perform For Sport, tests are carried out to assess the strength and stability of the core, using real-time diagnostic ultrasound treatment assessments. ‘Keep motivated by working hard on basic core work, like the plank and side plank, holding for longer each time. And try Pilates, improving by increasing the complexity of basic exercises,’ says Rawson. ‘This type of work will not just improve stability, but strength, too.’

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