How to Keep Up Fitness Levels When an Injury Interferes With Training
Last week, I had the opportunity to test out the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill, which takes pressure off your joints by using a pressure-controlled chamber to gently lift you. This helps to normalize your gait while protecting healing tissue, so you recover quickly from injuries and return to outdoor activities sooner.
While testing it out, I kept thinking how helpful an anti-gravity treadmill would have been when I struggled with injuries during my marathon training last winter. I could have still run without hindering my recovery!
In the past, I’ve suffered from a number of running-related injuries, so I know that the recovery process is often long and frustrating, especially when the doctors tell you not to exercise—the one thing you want to do so badly! I'm sure you can imagine how I felt when I dealt with injury after injury during my marathon training. It was stressful and frustrating, and I constantly worried about keeping up my weekly mileage.
When I signed up to run my first marathon, I knew I could potentially injure myself, but I committed to it anyway. During the height of my training, I was running between 25 and 30 miles a week, which was much more than my usual weekly mileage. It was just a matter of time before I felt pain in my hip, and then a few weeks later in my foot.
But when my foot injury popped up, I was more than halfway through my training program and the marathon was just about a month away. What did I do? I took a short break and found other forms of exercise to keep up my fitness levels. I was so close to my goal, I just had to keep trucking along!
I started looking for other ways to incorporate exercise into my weekly routine, like biking, Pilates, yoga, and various exercise classes offered at my gym. I particularly like strength-training classes—Body Pump is my favorite—because they challenge me but don’t strain my foot. After a couple of weeks of changing up workouts, I was surprised to discover that my running fitness did not wane much.
Instead, I became much stronger than I expected. Running may have been my main form of exercise during my training, but I realized that cross-training was key to preventing injuries. Last January, I ran my first marathon in 4:26:43. I pushed myself hard, which led to some minor aches and pains, but I crossed the finish line without any major injuries. Many months later, I still ask myself, "Was it worth it?" Absolutely! I accomplished one of my biggest life goals! But, at the same time, I learned two very valuable lessons: My body isn’t invincible anymore, and I need to train smart if I want to continue to run marathons.
When I signed up for my second marathon, I decided that I needed some guidance and started training with a professional running coach here in Boston. He immediately got me on a plan that would strengthen my hip and leg muscles. In just a few weeks, I started to feel stronger and slowly increased my weekly mileage. I'm not even halfway through my marathon training, but so far so good! No injuries! I have no idea if my second marathon will be my last, but I’ve learned that I need to listen to my body and take care of myself. In the end, pain-free exercise is well worth it to me.