I am a trainer, cyclist, runner and instructor. I believe I strained a gluteal muscle, which prevents me from running. I have a bike race coming up, and I know I need to rest the muscle but still need to train. Please advise what exercises I can do.
Getting injured just prior to competition is always going to make preparation for the event difficult. There are several different aspects that need to be considered in this scenario to ensure a speedy recovery and to minimize any potential de-conditioning effect, which will be the main danger to event performance.
Firstly it will be useful to get an accurate idea of what your injury actually is. In runners, hamstring strains, hip rotator strains and gluteus medius strains are all common injuries, mainly due to the key role they all play in successful running. Being able to isolate a cause will also play a big part in deciding upon rehabilitation and avoidance of further injury in the future.
In the acute phase of an injury (<72 hours), the use of cryotherapy (ice) can be very effective in helping lessen the effect of the strain. Beyond that time period, you can use thermotherapy (heat) to help warm the involved area prior to activity. This can be difficult to achieve effectively in the glute region due to the subcutaneous fat being a poor transmitter of heat, but it should be attempted prior to exercise.
There are other options for when an injury stops you from doing your chosen sport. You should try to find activities that mimmick the energy demands of your chosen sport. For example, swimming, rowing and skipping all have aerobic demands similar to that of running or cycling and, as such, can often be valuable tools for maintaining aerobic conditioning. Your main concern is going to be a loss of aerobic conditioning prior to your event, so you should try to keep your training duration at one similar to that which you would normally use.
There are many different factors that can affect how you recover, though it is critically important that you don’t stress healing tissues beyond their tolerance, worsening the injury. This will only serve to frustrate you and delay a return to race/match fitness. You should be able to return to your running training once you can bear full weight on the involved limb with no pain and no limp. Ensure that you moderate your running and graduate the return to your training distance.
There are many factors that can contribute to sustaining a lower extremity injury: anatomical abnormalities, changes or sudden increases in training protocols, muscle imbalance and lack of flexibility/stability or strength. Ensure that when getting back to full fitness, you pay attention to adequate hamstring flexibility, pelvic and leg-length symmetry, hip rotator strength and flexibility and sound mechanics through the kinetic chain. This is particularly important if you find this injury recurring.