Hurt 5 wks from marathon: how to cross-train?

Welcome! Forums Running Forum Hurt 5 wks from marathon: how to cross-train?

This topic contains 5 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Zeke 13 years, 11 months ago.

  • Author
  • #2127


    Hello all. I’m new to this forum, having arrived from another forum (run by a flashy and irrelevant pseudo-running mag) in search of informed advice and high-quality discussion.

    I’m facing a disagreeable situation: I can’t run because of an injury, and I have five weeks until my goal marathon (Austin, 2/13/05). The injury is a calf strain I developed while trying to train through mildly painful tendonitis in my left knee and hamstring. I took the last three days off and feel better, but I don’t expect to run again for several more days at best.

    Until then I need to stay active in order to minimize any loss of fitness. My sports doc, a marathoner and Ironman triathlete whom I trust, says it’s OK to do anything that doesn’t hurt. Stationary cycling and water running feel fine, and I’ll use the elliptical trainer if my calf doesn’t protest.

    So I’m seeking suggestions about how to cycle and water-run in order to get the training benefits I need at this stage of my training program. I’ve been following the 18-week, 70mpw schedule in Pfitzinger & Douglas’s “Advanced Marathoning,” which calls at this point for VO2 max workouts and training races as well as the usual 13-15 mile runs, recovery runs, and weekly 18+ mile run. Given the need for interval workouts, I’m wondering whether it will be sufficient to cycle for similar durations and intensities in order to get what the running VO2 max workouts are meant to deliver. Or do I need to go beyond those parameters in order to get back on the road in reasonable shape?

    Looking ahead to the marathon, I’m determined to run it since I’ve already booked my trip. Whether I will race it or run it for kicks and go for my goal (sub-3) at another race, I’ll decide once I can run again and thereby assess my readiness. That said, if anyone has a point of view about whether I should run the marathon at all, I’d welcome it.



    (Additional background for anyone curious: In my last marathon, Nashville in April 2004, I finished in 3:09 after making an overambitious go at a sub-3 and bonking savagely around mile 20. I trained for that race using P&D’s 18-week, 55mpw plan. Then I spent four months base-building at ~60mpw before starting my current program with Austin in mind.)

  • #17250


    Welcome to the forums. I hope you find what you are looking for here.

    As for what to do, the best activity to maintain running-related fitness would be as close to running as possible. This means your #1 option should be water running since you say this doesn’t bother your injury. As for doing workouts, I would say going by duration and perceived effort would be your best bet.

    Just remember, no matter what kind of cross-training you do, it’s not the same as actually placing foot to ground. No matter what you do, it’s not going to be as beneficial as the actual act of running. In the case of injury, of course, you take the best you can get and hope it’s good enough. However, you have to keep this in mind when you get back to running on solid ground because you may not be able to pick things up where you left off.

  • #17251



    Welcome. Sorry to hear about your injury, especially 5 weeks away from your goal race. I think if you’ve only missed 3 days and even if you take another few days off, you should be okay (given the large base you built up) – as long as you are recovered from the calf strain. My coach from college says a marathon can smell an injury from 26.2 miles away. So you don’t want to head to Austin with the thoughts of racing, if your injury is not completely healed. Heck, I wouldn’t even go there and run for fun if there’s a chance you’ll end up screwing yourself up even worse.

    It sounds like you have a Dr. that knows what you’re going through. That’s a definite plus. I’m not expert on cross training, but have done some triathlons in the past, along with some water running. If you’re attempting a VO2 max workout, I’d think water running is the way to go. It’s boring as hell, but it can be a great cardio workout. I think trying to do a VO2 workout on the bike would be very difficult – especially since you haven’t been biking. You have to put forth a pretty good effort on a bike to make it a solid VO2 workout and if you’re not used to biking, it could be a pain in the ass (literally) and other muscle groups. I don’t have any experience on the elliptical but Double has spent some time on those machines. Maybe he can chime in. Any access to a Nordic ski machine? As for the long run, a 3 hour water run would probably drive you insane, even more so than 3 hours on the bike. Maybe you mix it up, an hour on the elliptical, an hour on the bike and an hour in the pool.

    Things to keep in mind: an hour on the bike doesn’t really translate to an hour of running. I’ve heard anywhere from a 3:1 to a 4:1 ratio. Also, your intensity will be different on a bike than while running. For example, if you use a HRM an easy run may be 140 bpm, but 140 bpm on the bike would be a hard workout.

    Again, given your base training, I don’t think you should lose too much fitness if you can do some cross-training until you are healed. Heck, in his book, Dick Beardsley talks about shoveling snow for cross-training. If he was scheduled for a long run, he’d shovel for 2+ hours. Intervals? No problem, he just shoveled at the effort he’d have run at for that day.

  • #17252


    I’ve been hurt 2-3 times 1-6 weeks out from races. I always tried to maintain my fitness by getting on an Ellyptical Trainer. You can really grind away on those things and maintain some fitness. A person loses little fitness after a week off, so I always tried that first and if I had access got on something to grab a workout. I missed a decent portion of training this summer, but when I got on an old ten speed I put it in 10th gear and rode like a mad man for 10-20 miles each time. Sometimes twice a day.

  • #17253


    Thanks very much for your observations and suggestions – you’ve given me some excellent guidance on how to approach my rehab period, and much-needed reassurance that the sky isn’t falling. This is the first time in my very short life as a competitive runner that I’ve had to stop running because of an injury, so it’s been tough to figure out what I ought to do and what I can expect.

    Based on your suggestions, I plan to mix up my cardio workouts, the better to avoid new injuries and achieve the proper intensity each time. My morning session will be a cardio-machine medley, and in the evening I’ll do some water running so that my muscles don’t “forget” what the point of all this is. With any luck everything will hold together and I’ll be back to running before long.

    Thanks again for your help. I’ll report back so that others may learn from all this.

  • #17254


    I forgot to ask if you have an aqua-belt? That’s about the only way you can get in a water run that I know of. Some fitness centers have them, otherwise you may have to buy one.

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.