Its just the way it goes sometimes. You have something planned and things go awry, just look at Gordan Hayward (don't click that) or Shalene Flanagan (do click on that one) . Injuries happen, family things get in the way, goals change. With running in particular its important to take these things in stride (no pun intended...well maybe a little pun intended). For most of us running is a hobby, for some a run can be a little more necessary than others...whether its to hit a qualifying time or de-stress from work or family stuff popping up. So what do you do when running just can't happen?
hit the bike
If you've been hit with an injury and are not able to run there are few things that get you a similar workout. Riding a bike outside or in the gym is a great way to get some cardio in if you've got an impact injury from running. Cycling takes strain of the knees and helps build quad and hamstring strength for when you're ready to come back to the run. The bike can be a little tricky though as it takes a bit longer to get a workout in, a general rule of thumb is a 1:3 ratio for every mile of running you'll need to cycle 3 miles.
walk it off
Running happens to burn about 2.5 times the amount of calories as walking but that doesn't mean that walking isn't a great way to exercise or clear your mind. Walking does reduce the risk of injury and still builds strength. It's also a great way to blow off steam without getting too carried away. Also when you compare running to walking you may be surprised to find that 1 to 2 hours of walking or running at a gentler pace can decrease your risk of death by 25%*. However, if you walk in the middle of the highway that risk of death sky rockets**.
go for a swim
Fish do it. Why can't you? When an injury pops up the pool is a perfect place to visit. Its a little tricky to get the heart rate up in the pool but its a fantastic strength workout to replace your run. As a runner you can straight up go for a swim or you can even run in the pool. Sometimes I'll use it as a way to build some miles into my training while reducing the impact of running. I find running in the pool boring as all heck but for those who log miles on the mill on a regular basis its not much different. It does take more physical effort to swim as water provides much more resistance then wind does while running. Its a total body workout that is a great replacement when you're unable to run.
Yoga I hear is a great alternative for those of us who cannot run. Whether its a time crunch or you're hurt, you can easily find a yoga class and get a solid workout in while also clearing the mind. Not only will Yoga build strength but its also a great way to increase range of motion and flexibility as well. So if you're sidelined due to injury you'll be better off upon your return.
One benefit of running that often gets overlooked is the mental aspect. Traditionally folks use running to lose weight or run fast or get stronger, in reality its all those things and its a great way to manage stress. I use time on the run to plan out my day, maybe de-stress about work (I know such a stressful gig right?), rock out to some tunes, or just zone out. If your running plans change what can you do to manage that stress? Meditate. The benefits of meditation are tremendous, here are just a few according to the Huffington Post (a reliable news source depending on which side of the political spectrum you're on!): Meditation reduces stress, improves concentration, increases self-awareness, slows aging and increases cardiovascular and immune system health. So take a minute. Breath deep and relax.
*according to Paige Greenfield of Prevention.com
**according to me