Last week I woke up with a self-diagnosed case of “metatarsalgia”–also known as, pain in the ball of the foot. I’d like to give Google a special shout out for fielding that one for me. The pain was localized so I figure that it stemmed from either hitting my foot wrong on the pavement while running or wearing 3.5-inch heels for nine hours straight a week prior. For those curious about how the latter scenario went–yes, I did in fact look like Bambi learning to walk. Sigh.
Although I’m no podiatrist, I used my better judgement and decided that it would be smart to nix the running for a little while and try other forms of exercise that would exert minimal pressure on that area of my foot. And this brings me to a list of alternative ways to train for a race–gasp!–without running:
Ellipticize. The elliptical machine combines the feel of stair climbing and cross-country skiing. The benefit for those with a foot injury is that it almost completely minimizes impact. Up the resistance to strengthen the calf, quad and glute muscles, while building endurance.
Find your inner Nemo. Whether you dive in the H2O for some pool running or to swim a few laps, water sports are a functional form of cross-training. “Swimming is often praised as an ideal cross-training activity for runners because it is an excellent cardio workout with zero impact and it strengthens muscles that running neglects,” reports Runner’s World.
Harness your inner Lance. Bicycling is another nonimpact activity that makes an excellent training or rehabilitative exercise. “As a repetitive-motion activity in which the legs do the work, it develops a form of fitness that’s highly transferable to running,” reports Runner’s World. “Many elite road cyclists can run an excellent 10-K on the basis of their bike training alone.
Pump like Popeye. Many people training for a race become so overwhelmed with building endurance or shaving seconds off their PR that they neglect the importance of strength training. Ironically, lifting weights or performing manual resistance exercises are crucial to injury-prevention. Click here for a few strength training workouts.
Hit the mat. Many training schedules actually factor in days for a yoga or pilates sessions as a part of preparing for a race. These forms of exercise both strengthen and stretch the body, while also promoting balance–all factors that minimize the chance of injury. Not only are these workouts low-impact, they can revive a stale running routine.