What I do when I can’t run

My hamstring is, fingers crossed, definitely getting better. It’s tough because I’ve had to strengthen the tendon in order for it to get back to normal but strengthening it can aggravate it further and delays it feeling normal.

However, I had a really good deep massage again on Tuesday night and I woke up the next day with huge improvements. The sports therapist also tested my hamstring strength and found it had improved a lot since previously. So for now I’m just letting it calm down a bit. Tendons are tricky business!

Anyway, I’m still actually OK with not running at the moment. As I’ve said before, I have no races coming up and I have no urgency to start training again. All is well! Clearly shows I needed a break. Don’t get me wrong, I would like to do the odd run for the mental freshness it brings but I’m not feeling the panic and sadness I might previously have felt in the past.

So what does a runner do I do when I can’t run? I’m not a big fan of cardio machines at the gym it has to be said. I know I can get my fitness back when I get back to running so I’m not stressed about being slow (for me) when I do start again. Spinning has always been a good fall back for me but I’m not really feeling the urge to go and I’ve convinced myself it wouldn’t be a good idea with a hamstring issue anyway Winking smile

My only annoyance with my hamstring is that because I’m trying to be super careful not to aggravate it, I’ve been avoiding heavy squats and deadlifts. I find these really don’t help the matter and probably contributed to it going from a slight niggle post-marathon to a very annoying persistent nag. So going to the gym has required a bit more thought.

Though I am still lifting heavy weights when it comes to upper body (arms, back and shoulders), I now incorporate more running-specific dynamic strength workouts so when I go into marathon training I will hopefully have a strength conducive to running injury-free.

Here are a few of the things I’ve been doing at the gym.

For legs:

  • Side sliding lunges


This uses the rowing machine’s seat. You can use those floor disc things that slide around but I prefer the rowing machine. At first I was a bit nervous doing this as it’s a bit odd I guess to use the rowing machine in this way but no one batted an eyelid (and to be fair, the gym is quite empty at 5.30am).

You can also stand in front of the seat and push your foot backwards for a backwards lunge as well and this will work the glutes a bit more.

  • Squat with medicine ball drop



Though I’m avoiding heavy squats, I find normal body weight squats don’t impact my hamstring (especially I don’t try and go too deep). These squats are really good for the entire body as you lift the medicine ball in the air as you come out of the squat and then throw it down. It’s quite an explosive exercise. You then squat to pick it up and begin again. I tend to do about 20-30 reps depending on the weight of the ball.

  • Squat on a Bosu ball


This is a good isometric exercise – where you hold the squat position, or you can squat up and down while attempting to maintain good form. It’s tricky because you’re wobbling the entire time. It’s a great exercise though as it recruits lots of stabilising muscles that might ordinarily not come into play.

For core:

  • Battle ropes


Obviously these work the arms and shoulders quite a lot, but the core is also engaged to keep you grounded and to help with the movement. I try and do these for one minute – it’s tough!

  • TRX suspension


I do a few different exercises using the TRX ropes. You can do mountain climbers (alternating bringing one leg forward to your chest) or (as in the photo) both legs at the same time for a crunch. A good one for the abductor muscles is getting into the plank position with your legs held in the suspension and then opening and closing your legs while maintaining a stable plank position.


For glutes:

  • Donkey kickbacks


A fairly standard glute workout that you’ve probably seen countless of times. I try and keep the movement controlled and slow rather than launching my leg back quickly. I also wear ankle weights to make it a bit more tricky. Then after doing a certain number of reps I pulse my leg when it’s in the raised position to really work the glute.

  • Resistance band walking


This is a favourite of mine. I use a resistance band around my ankles and then step (while maintaining tightness in the band) to the side, like a crab, then change directions to work the other side. I then walk forwards and do it that direction (monster walk – again trying to maintain the resistance). Another good one is the “wet pant walk” which is basically standing on your tip toes and walking forwards, like you’ve just wet your pants Winking smile

  • Plank with leg lifts


While planking, slowly lift one leg up (maintaining a strong core) and bring it back down, without touching the ground, and then lifting it again. I do this for about 10 reps per leg and repeat this a few times.

For how I structure things at the gym, what I tend to do is do heavier weights at the start (after a warm-up) and then follow with a circuit-style routine. For example, this is what I did on Tuesday:

Heavy: Pull-ups (using the assisted pull-up machine)
Heavy: Standing press

– Press-ups
– Battle ropes
– Kettle bell swing
– Eccentric box jumps
– Leg curtsy squats
– Russian twists
– Burpees

After I’ve finished the more heavy stuff, I set up all the bits I need for my circuit and then go through each exercise once for a number of reps, and then repeat the entire circuit three times. I enjoy doing this as it stops me getting bored and it allows my muscles to recover while I do something else before I get back to it.

I tend to find my exercises on the Internet, Instagram or in magazines. I’m always looking out for ways to make things interesting and not get samey. I hope these help anyone who needs a bit of inspiration!

What do you do in the gym?

What do you enjoy most at the gym?

What’s your favourite area to work on?