The rules of injury cross training
- Never do any type of cross training that bothers your injury. If it hurts when you bike then you don’t bike. It is completely counter productive to do any cross training that will slow your recovery.
- Next up rule number two be as specific to running as you can. So if your rich or have great contacts then get your ass on an anti g treadmill or a underwater one. If your not then aqua jogging and elliptical and versa climber are better then biking which is better then swimming.
- If you are going to only miss a few days then don’t do something that is going to make you sore. For example the stationary bikes I have to use don’t have a low resistance setting so if I ride them long enough to get a workout I get very tight quads, now if you have a stress fracture and are going to be out for 6 weeks then this is no big deal you will be long past this soreness by the time you must start to come back to running. But if you may be back in a day or three then don’t be an idiot stay off the bike
- aerobic training is the only training that really matters. Why because anaerobic training is to get you sharp to race and you should not be racing within 4 or six weeks of return from injury.
- Never lift weights, your not running and your liable to come out looking like a beef cake if you lift with your upper body and lower body lifting will aggravate your injury. No I don’t know what your injury is but I do know that lifting will aggravate it.
- Mix it up, don’t just do one kind of cross training do at least two, the more the merrier. Cross training is the most boring thing in the world so changing it up will help you do more of it.
- Bike at 120 revolutions per minute. If your bike won’t let you do this(it has to much resistance, ok, but if you have to do less then 90 rpms don’t use the bike)
- If you are in the pool you are doing an aqua jogging workout, no ifs, ands or buts about it.
- As a general guideline you should do twice the time cross training as you did running. So if you were running an hour and a half a day then you should do 3 hours of cross training. Yes this totally sucks.
Now that we got those guidelines out of the way lets start to set up a program. Personally I think that ideally you should do a mix of aqua jogging and elliptical. The pool is a boring hell and it doesn’t give your leg muscles a great workout so it alone can as my dad always said “suck the ultimate wango.” Not totally sure what a wango is but knowing my dad it is exactly what you would think it is. Now me personally I haven’t the balance for the elliptical so I go with biking instead, or cross country skiing in season. I recommend even if you are a low mileage person to do 1 session of each of your chosen exercises a day. If you are real motivated or have a partner to help get you through doing say 1 bike/elliptical session and 2 pool sessions is ideal. In college one winter I did an hour on the bike and an hour in the pool and then either a versa climber workout or another hour on the bike and of course an hour in the pool each afternoon. On the weekends I did just one hour each on Saturday and a “long run” of two plus hours in the pool on Sunday. I did 3 hours once and was socially awkward for at least a week after. Don’t spend 3 hours alone aqua jogging in a pool. Its bad for you mentally, it can’t be good for your health and it has little or no training benefit.
Now the sessions I have listed above sound great but one it was very mentally draining and two much of the work and time I was putting in was doing me no good.
Why??? Aqua jogging, just hoping in there and going does you little or no good. I have no scientific evidence of this but I’ve been hurt for literally a total of years when you add it up and I’m 100% certain of this. Why, well I got fat doing it, but more importantly your heart rate will almost always be below 120 and often well below that mark and frankly how much training can be taking place at that level. So if you are in the pool you are doing a workout, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. See rule #4.
So what should you be doing for pool workouts?
I like 30 minuters, not that you get done in 30 minutes but you do 30 minutes of efforts. Basically you break 30 minutes up any which way you want and take ¼ to 1/3 the time your effort was for rest. For example 30x1 min with 15 second rest. Now each of these should be preceded by 10 mins warm up and followed by 5 or 10 minutes cool down. As time goes by you can really get inventive, with ladders and what not. Efforts longer then 5 or 6 minutes tend not to work because you lose focus. Now how hard should these be. Well all out that’s how hard. It is pretty much impossible to go anaerobic well aqua jogging, at least to a serious degree so all out is the way to go.
So what should I do on the bike or the elliptical?
Now this is your volume builder just ride for time every day. It should be at more like a tempo run effort and remember the more rpms the better, lower resistance and more rpms always. If this is your only form of cross training or main form then you can do a workout on it once or twice a week. Just do a workout you would do on the track. Say you often do 5x mile then do 5x5 minutes on the bike with the same amount of time rest as you would take during your track workout.
Next up the Versa Climber, aka the hill workout of the injured world. You simply put this in for a soul crushing lung burning little taste of heaven once or twice a week. It is really a great replacement for hill workouts. One caveat you bring a trash bin over to this puppy when you workout there. If you are not at least dry heaving on this workout then you simply are not going hard enough.
There you have it my slightly rambling guide to staying fit while you are injured. Now for some people cross training is as good as the real thing, Dave Cremin was a guy who ran for Umass Lowell in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Dave got hurt after the first meet of the 1990 xc season and missed the whole season but was able to start running a bit the week before the regional meet. They had a good team so Dave ran, finished 3rd? I believe and qualified for the NCAA’s. There he finished 5th after running for less then three weeks. Now this is all D2 but the point is the guy stayed real fit. Now I never had those kind of results I tended to really struggle coming back but long term my cross training would really pay off. I would struggle for a few months getting back into running shape but then I would make a huge jump as my running came around and acclimated my overall fitness to running. Point is if you miss four months and train your ass off in the pool and come out and run like **** don’t sweat it, you may just have to wait a few months to get your big pay off.