Don’t get knocked off your stride when you can’t get out for a run

‘Replace running time with cross-training of the physical, mental or even gourmet kind’

I had a taster of what it might be like to be an injured runner during the recent storm Emma.

Trapped inside, I longed to escape for a run. Being told it was unsafe to venture out made me wish for my running freedom even more. Indeed, it was only a few days of cabin fever, but if I was prevented from running by injury I imagine the frustration would quickly build.

Time on our hands

While some people panicked about the lack of bread, many runners worried about missing miles during the inclement weather. Cross-training by building a snowman or clearing a path just didn’t appeal as an alternative. The extra time around the house only served to offer more time to ponder the lack of running. I had emails and calls from students anxious about how they would manage to make up the lost training sessions.

Be flexible

The advice I gave to my snowbound students is quite similar to that which I would give to an injured runner who is concerned about losing fitness, strength and motivation. Having to adapt our schedule can be hard as most of us thrive on routine with running being a key part of our identity. However, there are times we need to be flexible with our training, remain calm and make the most of the situation without feeling guilty for not running.


Alternatives to running

There is a lot more to being a runner than just running miles. Being off the road does not mean that all training has to stop. With more time on our hands, we have an opportunity to invest time in the complementary aspects of running that often get overlooked when we are too busy running.

Stay in control

Replace your running time slots with cross-training of the physical, mental or even gourmet kind. It can be unsettling when injured to lose the structure from our weekly routine. Maintaining a schedule for our running time will help us feel in somewhat control of our running. We can use the time to prepare our body best for its return to the road.

Move differently

Runners are often stiff and tight and often ignore the niggles. Whether you choose yoga, pilates, mobility stretches or foam rolling, create a self-care routine for your body. Find the right exercise by experimenting with some online videos. You might even have a set of exercises prescribed by your physiotherapist that you are not as diligent at practicing as you should be. Set a timer for 10-15 minutes and move in a way that feels good for you. This is enough time to stay focused but not too long to get distracted.

Read and write

You probably have running magazines, books and online articles you have been meaning to read. Pick one article per day and get inspired. Even Netflix has running documentaries if you are really struggling to get off the couch. Anything that helps you get motivated surely counts as training. Consider writing a running journal to track your progress when on and off the road. Looking back over the entries on these days when you are frustrated will be interesting reading in the future. Sometimes just writing down how we are feeling can lift our mood and put things in perspective.


My current favourite complementary running practice is working on my breathing. Both calming and energising, focusing on our breath is something we can all work on, regardless of injury. A clearer head benefits more than just our running recovery. There are many mindfulness techniques and once again a range of options online or in apps to help you out. I’m experimenting with oxygen advantage technique at the moment which focuses on nasal breathing and breath holding to help mirror altitude training without having to do any high-intensity training. Find something that interests you and spend a little time practicing.


Am I the only one who’s running gear seems to multiply in the wardrobe? This could be a nice time to declutter or organise running memorabilia and old race T-shirts. Enjoy looking over your running past and remember the days where running has brought joy to your life. Take time to look at your running shoes and sports bras too. Do any need to be replaced?

Train the head

I have spoken many times on the importance on working on our mindset and mental training. This is an ideal focus when you are limited with your running miles. Not just for elite athletes, practices such a positive self-talk and visualisation will calm the nerves, reduce anxiety and build confidence all without running a minute. Start simply by writing down a list of all the things you can do to help your running when you are out of action. Focus on the positive rather than dwelling on what you cannot do right now.


When we stop running we can feel sluggish. Many of us reverted to Christmas eating practices during Storm Emma. A few days won’t do us any harm but a longer term injury could affect the waistline and mood unless mindful of what we eat. Use this time now to experiment with cooking healthy post-run dinners that you can freeze or try some homemade healthy snacks that you can reach for instead of the biscuit tin. Plan ahead now and it will be easier to resist temptation when you have the good stuff in stock.

Move on

A few weeks on from the snow and all those who were apprehensive about how much it would set them back have moved on. Storm Emma is a distant memory, but when the next storm comes your way, should it be triggered by the weather or an injury, you have a list of tasks with which to keep busy. Don’t let the uncertainly cause you to be anxious, instead adapt the plan and you might even enjoy the change of focus.

Sign up for one of The Irish Times' Get Running programmes (it is free!) and Get Healthy for 2018. 
First, pick the programme that suits you.
- Beginner Course: This programme is an eight-week course that will take you from inactivity to being able to run 30 minutes non-stop.
- Stay On Track: The second programme is an eight-week course for those of you who can squeeze in a 30- to 40-minute run three times a week.
- 10km Course: This is an eight-week course designed for those who can comfortably run for 30 minutes and want to move up to the 10km mark.
Best of luck!

Mary Jennings

Mary Jennings

Mary Jennings, a running coach and founder of ForgetTheGym, is a contributor to The Irish Times