Cross training – training when injured.

Training when injured

Training when injured

My friend was out running in the rain the other day, slipped and twisted her knee.  It is now lovely and swollen and she has been advised to avoid too much force going through her knee. So what does she do now?  Does she have to lay up for a couple of weeks recovering and possibly losing some of the fitness she has trained hard to gain?  Of course not!  This is where cross training (and a little imagination) comes in! First of all, here is the usual obvious disclaimer:

As with any injury, get it checked out by someone who knows what they are talking about.  It is stupid being all macho, ignoring an injury or “training through” it and screwing up your body for months/years to come.

Pain is a signal from your body that something is wrong.  Listen to it!

Then you need to find out what things are best to avoid.  In the case of my friend, it is higher impact, explosive forces.  Especially those that can force the knee in directions it does not like.  Knees do not like sideways or twisting forces.  They only like bending back and forth. So for the moment, running, jumping and sudden changes in direction is out.  But her upper body is fine, and simple straightening/bending of the knee is also fine.  So instead of focussing on what we can’t do, we need to focus on the various things we can do…and then get doing it! This is called cross training…or doing something different to complement our goals. So simple things first.



Cycling.  This involves simple, predictable bending/straightening of the knees, with virtually zero impact.  It maintains mobility of the swollen joint, increases blood flow (which can help healing), maintains leg strength and is fantastic cardio vascular exercise (it gets you out of breath). Swimming.  Avoiding breast stroke where you can.  Breast stroke kicking has sideways forces going through the legs (not what an injured knee wants).  And on a side note, if you swim like most people (including myself untill recently), you arch your spine and neck back sooo much in an attempt to keep your face out of the water so you can breathe.  Stick your face in the water between breaths.  Your fitness/neck/spine will thank you for it!  Anyway.  In my friends case, she might want to swim front crawl, or back stroke.  This involves simple kicking of the legs back and forth (again, in the direction knees like) and is great for fitness.

Upper body erg - or the arm bike

Upper body erg – or the arm bike

Upper body ergometer (arm bike).  We have one of these in the gym and they are great.  No legs involved at all, so you don’t have to worry about aggravating an injury, so you can concentrate on working hard! Rowing.  I love these machines!  But make sure you do them right.  Sit tall to look after your spine, and make sure when you bend your knees, they are between your arms.  Don’t twist them out so your arms are between your knees.  Remember, knees don’t like twisting! Punching the bag.  Be honest now…are you really all that surprised I’m suggesting this?  I LOVE it.  You will just have to make sure you stay in one place.  No Ali-Shuffle for the moment.  Just stand in front of the bag and show it who is boss and keep out of breath. Increasing your Background Activity levels.  If you are seriously struggling to find any form of training, then make sure that the rest of your time is not spent sitting down watching X-Factor.  Do something, anything else. We will all get injured at some point.  The trick is to not throw our arms in the air and say

“buggerit!  I’m screwed!  I may as well sit here and eat cake until I’m fixed!”

Instead, we just work out what we can do, then get on and do it until we are able to get back into training for real.

  1. Get injury checked out by someone who knows what they are talking about and start re-hab.
  2. Find out activities/exercises you can do that do not aggrevate injury (eg if you lower limbs are injured, use upper limbs more and vice versa).
  3. Adapt your training plan accordingly, then get on with being consistant.

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