Activity restrictions accompany many running injuries. For some injuries such as stress fractures, any sort of impact or weight-bearing might be restricted. Injuries and activity restriction are frustrating, but they do not have to put you on virtual bed rest. Instead, if your condition permits, you can try this modified strength workout for injured runners.
Back in October, a stress fracture on my third metatarsal broke through. I could not run, bike, swim, or do lower body strength exercises for six weeks.
After 14 days of not running or cross-training, you will experience deconditioning. The longer you are unable to run, the more fitness you will lose. I could throw statistics at you, but your running background, age, and responsiveness to training will all affect the rate at which you decondition. It is also not the healthiest thing for the injured runner’s mind to ponder exactly how much slower their race pace has become.
Strength training will not prevent loss of aerobic fitness, but it will maintain muscle mass. Muscle mass will make it easier to resume normal training after your injury. When you are unable to run and otherwise cross-train, strength training also provides a regular exercise routine. Even with modifications, you can enjoy a good workout!
This strength training routine is based off of what I used during my metatarsal fracture. This can be used for lower body fractures, strains, or other injuries that restrict lower body weight bearing. If you are in a boot, this is a workout for you. All exercises are completed on a mat, stability ball, or bench to remove any weight-bearing from the injured leg or foot.
Disclaimer: I am not a physical therapist or medical professional. If your doctor advises not to do a particular workout, follow their instructions. Please always use common sense: if an exercise hurts your injury, do not do it.
Shoulder presses on the stability ball: Sit on a stability ball, holding a weight in each hand. Keep your shoulders blades down and back (avoid hunching forward) and your core engaged. Hold the dumbbells at shoulder height and slowly press up over head; pause, then lower back down to complete one rep.
Chest flyes on the stability ball: Lie on a stability ball, so that the ball is beneath your mid to upper back. Your feet should be flat on the floor with your ankles beneath your knees. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and lift the dumbbells straight over your chest, palms facing each other. While keeping your elbows slightly bent, slowly lower your arms out to the side, until the dumbbells reach shoulder height. Pause, then slowly return to start to complete one rep.
Pullovers on the stability ball: Lie on a stability ball, so that the ball is beneath your mid to upper back. Your feet should be flat on the floor with your ankles beneath your knees. Hold a dumbbell or medicine ball with both hands straight above your chest. While keeping your core engaged (do not arch your lower back), slowly lower the ball back behind your head, until your arms are parallel with the floor. Pause, then return to start to complete one rep.
Lying tricep extensions: Lie on a stability ball, so that the ball is beneath your mid to upper back. Your feet should be flat on the floor with your ankles beneath your knees. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and lift the dumbbells straight over your chest. Bend your elbows to lower the weights down toward your forehead, stopping when your forearms are parallel to the floor and your elbow forms a right angle. Slowly return to start to complete one rep.
Deadbugs*: Lie on your back with your legs in a tabletop position (90 degree angle between the floor and your thighs, 90 degree angle at the knees) and your arms extended straight up and perpendicular to the floor. Your back should be flat against the floor/mat and you should pull your navel in to engage your abs. Slowly lower the left leg and right arm down, maintaining a flat back and engaged core throughout.
Side Lying Leg Lifts*: Lie on one side, with your hips stacked and shoulders stacked. You can rest your head in your hand or supported on your arm on the ground – just be sure to keep your neck straight and supported. Your legs should be be in line with your spine. Engage your core and slowly raise up the top leg; pause, then slowly lower down. Complete all reps on one side before switching.
Modified Push-ups: Perform push-ups on your knees instead of your feet. Focus on a full range of motion: lower all the way down to the ground and all the way back up. Keep your core engaged and back flat throughout – do not slouch at the shoulders or round your back.
*If your injury is not severe, you may be able to remove the boot for these exercises . Be cautious.
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