QOTW: If I am struggling with an ongoing running injury, are there any elements I can replace running within my training? What are your best approaches outside of just dumping more swimming and riding into the mix?
This situation does not mean you are automatically going to move backward, and so often it can ironically be a catalyst for overall performance improvement.
It sounds as though you have an ongoing niggle that requires more than a few days rest, so let’s help in a couple of ways:
- Solutions to support performance (including running) without executing running.
Mindset: You have to realize that one of the massive benefits of multi-sport is that you have three disciplines to utilize to keep performance driving forward. I cannot tell you how many athletes realize a performance boost from a forced removal of one of the disciplines. Shifting to a two-disciplined approach, without the weight-bearing and corrosive running can often allow growth in these areas. These improvements seldom regress once we reintegrate running, so it is important for you to shift the lens from what you are missing to the improvements that can be made in the other areas. Charge to improve swim and bike, become a better athlete globally, then build the run to level as the niggle allows. It sounds rather more positive doesn’t it? It is also exactly the mindset that can drive you forward overall.
Performance Support: There are a few things you can do to support running development while you find yourself unable to run. These are in order of focus and should be helpful:
- Double down on riding: Riding has a positive cross-pollination to running and is the largest part of the triathlon puzzle. Commit to riding and becoming stronger and it will help your riding and your running off the bike equally.
- Nail the swim: Yes. As much as you don’t like it, there is no better time to improve cardiovascular conditioning and overall swim performance. You won’t lose global fitness if you are doubling down on swim commitments.
Note that — so far — I have done exactly what you asked me not to! But I cannot lie, as a concerted swim and bike focus is your best approach.
- Elliptical Intervals: For the endurance and specific intervals that you cannot do running, replace with the elliptical. You can go like for like and hit key intervals chasing the same perceived effort and heart rate as you might in running. Not everyone’s idea of fun, so I would aim for two to three of these sessions at most.
- Aqua Intensity: There is nothing wrong with adding some short and very high-intensity aqua jogging sessions into the program, but I would advise against long and slow (and drab) extended endurance sessions. Get the intensity up and make them an “add-on” to any swim session. Something like 10 x (1 min fast, 1 min smooth) is a teaser way to go. Remember that heart rate will never climb so high in an aqua session, but to the supporting pressure of the water facilitating the venous return, but there is value in the action.
- Walking Treadmill: Not every running injury allows, but if you can do any steep grade walking then you should! It is great for posture, posterior activation, and weight-bearing form focus. This won’t be too hard, but will be effective.
If we review above, you can suddenly see how skipping running for a little while doesn’t suddenly mean you are forced into a program with massive gaps. Instead, you are able to fill those gaps with other useful training.
Keep moving forward, remain patient and allow progression as an athlete — even if the running must wait for a while.