I hurt my knee (runner's knee or patella femoral syndrome) back in October and just this month was finally able to start running again. Because I continued to run on my injured knee for a while, I ended up injuring my ankle as well. My ankle healed a lot faster than my knee; I had to stop all running for eight weeks while my knee healed. Here is what I did while I couldn't run:
- Elliptical: If you aren't working up a sweat, you haven't set the resistance high enough. Just keep upping the resistance until it is hard enough that you work up a sweat.
- EFX: This is similar to the elliptical but the arms don't move and it has an incline setting--I change the incline every 2.5 min to keep it interesting and go backwards for part of my workout. As with the elliptical, up the resistance until you start to sweat.
- Spinning: If your gym offers spin classes, I definitely recommend them. A good class will include some interval work, which is great cardio. As with the elliptical, you control how hard you work (and how much you sweat) by increasing the resistance.
- Swimming: A fantastic cardio workout and really great for both your knee and your ankle. My ankle would literally feel better after I finished swimming. If you feel like you aren't getting enough of a workout, swim intervals (swim as fast as you can for one lap, then swim a recovery lap).
- Walking on a steep incline: I set the treadmill at the max incline (15 degrees) and the fastest walking pace I could manage at this level. You'd be surprised how much of a workout this is. But this one is a little iffy on an injured knee and/or ankle. I didn't do it a lot and you shouldn't do it at all if it makes either your knee or ankle hurt.
I also continued to do weights and did the exercises my doctor recommended to strengthen my leg muscles (although I had to significantly increase the difficulty level of all of them--they were laughably easy).
I didn't do the rowing machine because I felt like it wasn't enough of a workout, but I think maybe I just wasn't doing it right. My doctor specifically recommended all of the above exercises (including the rowing machine) as safe for my knee (although she said not to do the incline walking if it hurt).
It's good that your gym doesn't have a stair machine because that's probably not good for an injured knee. My doctor specifically said stairs were out.
Also, I used Blue-Emu Oil
on my knee and it really helped. I'm normally skeptical of stuff like this, but it really worked. I felt an improvement in my knee after using it for only a week (I applied it three times a day). I highly recommend it. I think it is the glucosamine in it that helps. I plan on continuing to use it indefinitely even through my knee seems to be completely recovered now.