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Running Injuries: Crossing the Finish Line with the Elliptical Cross Trainer

My Race is Around The Corner And I am Injured! Don’t Get Cross…Get Cross!
It’s that time of year when we are heading into the 10k and half / full marathon season. Most of us are starting to increase our mileage and in particular, follow set training programmes.

But it’s also that time of year when the clinic goes crazy with running based injuries. So, if you have Running Injuries, what do you do?

I have a race in few weeks but I have Running injuries!

This is an awful and all too common scenario and will leave you wondering what should you do. The first question to ask yourself is, “Has the issue been consistent for more than a week?” If so its probably not a muscle pull and this is the time to visit someone to get it assessed and fixed. Don’t let it linger.

If running is causing the issue….stop! STOP ??! But if I stop I will not be fit enough to race, I cant take time off, I will fall behind in my programme!

That’s a real and extremely valid concern when faced with Running Injuries and at The Reinge Clinic we are not in the habit of stopping people from running, as it can lead to additional issues. Normally, we try to modify, whether that is how you run, where you run or how you maintain cardio fitness despite your Running Injuries. One of the most common modifications we use, is to get you onto an Elliptical Cross Trainer whilst dealing with the injury.

Why an Elliptical Cross Trainer?

Ok, first of all let me clear up, why not a treadmill.
In most cases (but not all) running injuries occur due to the impact involved in running. The treadmill, whilst reducing impact due to the natural spring in the bed, does not fully remove it. The treadmill running action is also actually rather removed from running outside in the real world, so not a great alternative in terms of specificity.

The treadmill requires the user to keep up with a moving belt, not to drive themselves forward using the ground reaction forces or even their muscles. This means the glutes and hamstrings don’t engage in the same way as when pushing your body upward and forward, and the glute is one of the major muscles involved in running. The running specific strength you develop on a treadmill, will not translate particularly well to an outdoor run. That makes it hard to use as a long term alternative, whilst tackling running injuries. By long term, we are referring to over 4 weeks, which is a realistic minimum recovery time for many Running Injuries.

So the Elliptical Cross Trainer is a great alternative:

  • There is no impact, so it really helps when we have issues with shin splints, knee pain created by internal rotation of the leg due to over pronation, etc.
  • It requires you to push downwards and backwards. That engages the glute and hamstrings, just as it would in outdoor running.
  • It’s a reciprocal action….Your body rotates and your opposite arm and leg drive at the same time, just as it does when running outside. Studies show that on a treadmill, a person will run with reduced rotation, partly due to the rails either side, and partly due to the lack of need to drive forward.

The Elliptical Cross Trainer is a great alternative to running.

So the Elliptical cross trainer is a really useful tool for dealing with most injuries we see, whilst keeping the runner going. It’s obviously not as interesting as running, but needs must! It’s also a suitable tool to allow you to keep following your running programme. You can still use it to do efforts, recovery runs, tempo and long run equivalents.

Here’s an anecdotal story from the clinic but a nice demonstration of how the cross trainer can really help:
We had a runner who had deferred from The London Marathon the maximum number of times due to injury and had to do it this time or would have to go back into the ballot. It was January and they had just come out of plaster for stress fractures of the tibia, we had twelve weeks left and they couldn’t walk without pain.

We obviously started to treat them, but after a long fight to convince them, we carried out the entire marathon training program on an Elliptical Cross Trainer, with the exception of a few hundred metre slow runs just to get some light impact through the legs. They certainly found the equivalent of an 18 mile run a little mind numbing, but they enjoyed the ‘effort days’. Did they complete the London Marathon?

Yes they did! Without pain, without injury and in a not too shabby 3hrs,30 mins. To top it all they still pain free and now running ultra marathons.

So if you have an injury, don’t panic! We really do get how important it is to get to that finish line and using our Sports Science as well as Physiotherapy and Sports Therapy knowledge we have the skills to get you there.

Take a look at how we solve Running Injuries here.

Training for the Marathon – Take a look at some training tips here.