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July 26, 2022 7 min read

Running is one of the more popular forms of exercise, and its sport includes various types of people from all fitness backgrounds. From marathons to sprints to the occasional jog, there are running workouts for just about anyone.

Although running is popular and accessible, it can also be high-impact and cause running injuries among its athletes.

Injuries can put athletes out for weeks or months at a time, and for avid runners, this can be mentally tough and physically detrimental.

It’s important to always consult a doctor or physical therapist if you’re injured to make sure you can exercise. If you are cleared, there are ways to help stay in shape and not fall behind in your training.

Common Running Injuries

Running can be beneficial for your cardiovascular health and fitness, and bone and muscle strength, but this type of cardio can also be hard on your body. Any type of exercise in excess can have adverse effects on your health, but injured runners are fairly common.

Below are just a few of the common injuries that runners may experience, but are not the only ones:

Runner’s Knee

One of the most common types of running injuries is called runner’s knee, and it’s a common overuse injury.

The scientific term is Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, and one of the signs is pain around the front of your knee or the patella. You may also experience a grinding or clicking sound when you bend or straighten your knee, or feel pain when you’ve been sitting for too long.

Runner’s knee can be caused by many factors including weak leg muscles, tight hamstrings or achilles tendon, poor running shoes, excessive running, or a structural defect, such as a knee cap that’s too high in the knee joint.

The knee is one of most commonly injured areas in runners and  can account for up to 50% of injuries.

One of the ways to help treat runner’s knee is simply to stay off of it until the pain goes away. Ice packs, compression, and better running shoes can also help.

Stress Fractures

In long-distance runners, stress fractures can be particularly common and can be caused by overuse. 

The shin bone accounts for up to 75% of all stress fractures,many of which are found in runners.

Overuse is the main cause of stress fractures, but they can also be caused by poor running form or running shoes, running on a sloped surface, age, weight, osteoporosis, or even an inadequate diet.

Typical symptoms of a stress fracture include: pain or swelling, tenderness on the bone, and pain during and/or after physical activity.

Some of the ways to treat a stress fracture is prolonged rest, low-impact cross-training approved by the doctor, and wearing protection like a boot or cast to reduce stress on the area.

IT Band Syndrome

Also known as Iliotibial band syndrome or ITBS, IT band syndrome is another overuse injury that’s most commonly seen in runners. When the IT band is tight or inflamed, you may experience aching, burning, or tenderness on the outside of your hip.

This syndrome can be caused by the IT band being too tight and rubbing against the bone, causing excess friction.

One of the ways to help prevent IT band syndrome is to make sure you’re stretching before you exercise and cooling down after. 

Also being sure to rest for an adequate amount of time between running training is important.

Achilles Tendonitis

Along with the knee, the ankle has a high chance of being injured in runners, and achilles tendonitis makes up for at least 14% of running injuries

Overuse or tight calf muscles can cause this injury, and it can lead to severe pain, stiffness, and swelling.

A doctor may diagnose achilles tendinitis through an x-ray, ultrasound, or MRI, and depending on how severe it is, it could require physical therapy or even surgery.

For more common cases, achilles tendinitis can be treated by resting, icing the area, supportive shoes, or night splinting.

Shin Splints

Many runners experience shin splints especially if they’re wearing poor running shoes, are new to running, or started a different running program. The medical term for shin splints is medial tibial stress syndrome, and most cases aren’t a huge cause for concern.

You may feel pain or tenderness on your shinbone and may experience swelling, but if this continues after taking the necessary steps to heal, you may want to consult a doctor.

Resting for a few days, icing the area, and wearing proper footwear are all things to consider when you experience shin splints, and typically, you can be back hitting the pavement in no time.

However, if shin splints get worse, it can cause more serious conditions like stress fractures that can put you out for weeks or months.

8 Best Exercises for Injured Runners

If you’re injured, it can be frustrating, and you may think you can just push through the pain. However, it’s extremely crucial to let your body rest and heal in order to prevent a worse injury that could lead to months of rest or surgery.

You can still stay sane while injured as there are different exercises and cross-training plans that can help you heal and help to keep you injury-free.

It’s important to understand that your training program will depend on how severe your injury is, but provided you’re clear to practice different types of exercise, these are the best 8 exercises for injured runners.

Pool Running

Just because you’re not able to run on the pavement, it doesn’t mean you can’t run at all. 

Running in the pool, or aqua jogging, can be a beneficial non-weight bearing way to mimic the biomechanics of running while working through your injury.

This type of exercise can help you stay strong while providing a safer, low-impact way to do so. Aqua jogging can be beneficial during an injury, but it may even be able to help you run faster in the long run.

Aerobic activity in the water may help  improve endurance and aerobic performance on land.

Use the Elliptical

Although you may be used to running to the treadmill section of the gym, opting for an elliptical machine when you’re injured can be a low-impact way to keep your cardio up.

Using an elliptical can be just as effective as running to help get your heart rate up, and it can even  elicit more quadricep and hamstring activation than treadmill running or cycling.

Your quads and hamstrings are important for running, so being able to keep these strong while you’re injured could make a huge difference when you’re able to run again.

Hop on the Bike

If you’re desperately needing some cardio as an injured runner, biking can be a low-impact way to do a high intensity workout.

The cardiovascular fitness you can build on the bike can be used when you’re ready to start running again, and it can help keep your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves strong.

Cycling can also  help improve single-leg balance,which can translate to running since you need equal unilateral strength, endurance, and flexibility for better running and injury prevention.

Pilates

Pilates is a type of exercise that aims to strengthen the body and emphasizes core strength. It’s low-impact and can be a great option for injured runners to stay in shape.

Since pilates offers an emphasis on the core, it can help runners maintain their balance, stability, posture, and movement control, so when it’s time to lace up their running shoes again, they won’t have to start from square one.

Pilates can also help prevent injuries, so it can be beneficial for runners to continue even after they’ve healed.

Bodyweight Exercises

Strength training is a great way to become a better, faster, more efficient runner, but when you’re injured, you have to be careful with the type of training you’re doing.

Depending on your injury, the severity, and the clearance from a doctor, bodyweight exercises like squats and lunges can be a beneficial way to keep your lower body strong while keeping the stress off your joints.

Squats and lunges have the potential to improve knee stability and knee joint health, and they can help prevent common injuries in runners, particularly in runner’s knee.

Climb the Stairs

Keeping your cardio and strength up when you’re injured is essential for injured runners, and one way to do that is by climbing some stairs. You can use the stair climber in the gym, the steps at your nearby park, or even the stairs in your house.

Stair climbing can help keep your quads and glutes strong while also challenging your cardio, all of which are necessary to be a better runner.

Regular stair climbing is low-impact, and it can help increase aerobic capacity and lower body strength.

Rowing Machine

Rowing is one of the most low-impact exercises you can do, and since you’re in a seated position, it can put less stress on your joints compared to running.

Since it’s so low-impact, it can be a safer alternative for injured runners, however, it does again depend on the injury and severity.

If you’re dealing with shin splints, rowing can be a great way to get your cardio and strength work in without putting more stress on the shin.

Chair Cardio

If you’re suffering from a severe stress fracture or recovering from a surgery, you may receive doctor orders to stay off your feet as much as possible. For athletes, this can be heart shattering news, but there are still ways to workout even while sitting down.

Chair cardio is especially popular for an older population who may have difficulty moving, but it can be beneficial for runners recovering from severe injuries.

This type of exercise can be a low-impact way to help improve cardio, strength, balance, and mobility. It aims to keep your body moving and your heart rate up all while seated.

Get Back to the Pavement

Working through a running injury can be frustrating, but it doesn’t mean you have to stop moving completely. There are plenty of low-impact alternatives that can help maintain your cardio and strength for when you’re ready to lace up your running shoes again.

It’s important to remember that when you have healed and recovered, take preventative measures to help prevent another injury from happening.

Make sure to warm-up before your workout, and cool down and stretch after.

It’s also crucial to give your body rest days. For avid exercisers, rest days take more discipline than going to the gym, but it can be the difference between a healthy and injured body.

Getting plenty of sleep plays an important role in staying healthy and injury prevention because that’s when your body can heal properly.

If you have trouble sleeping, try Rested-AF for a deeper, more restful sleep.

Being injured is no fun and can greatly disrupt your training, so taking the necessary steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again will help you be a better and happier runner.