How to Stay Fit During an Injury
Rest . . . Sort Of
When injured, unless it's a critical one, "resting" doesn't mean slouching on the couch & watching Netflix. You can still allow your body to rest the injured body part while engaging others to maintain cardiovascular and muscular fitness.
Know What "Continue Exercising" Means Medically
Before engaging in any exercise, check-in with a medical professional. Since most injuries crop up and are further amplified due to improper form, use this period of recovery to also get assistance from a physical therapist if possible to check body mechanics. Most health insurances cover it now and just a few appointments are often enough to learn the exercises necessary to strengthen & recover at home.
Add & Subtract
Since you're pushed to subtract from your daily exercise routine, try adding something new that's more conducive to resting from your injury. Rather than being preoccupied with the type of exercise you choose as an alternative, choose something that doesn't cause further aggravation but still gets your heart rate up. Even walking at a good pace can do this.
Create a New Pattern or Habit
If you're able to do your preferred exercise while you're injured, do so lightly and under supervision. Take this time when you're approaching your exercise more lightly to pay more attention to and correct your mechanics. For instance, if running is your preferred exercise, check your hip and knee alignment, your strike, and gluteal engagement when you push off. Many people slack engaging their core and butt muscles, so experiment with putting your feet more flat on the ground rather than heel first, pulling in your core gently, and creating a new movement pattern. This is called real-time gait training, which can be useful to engage during times of injury or recovery.
Vary Your Intensity
Vary the intensity of your workouts and your heart rate by varying your training plan. Use different types of equipment to gauge different muscles. Do walks up hills, if you can, one day and use the bike on another. Even when you're injured, you can maintain the quality of your workouts this way.
Be Honest with Yourself
Take an honest look at the condition of your injury & your current needs. How have you approached previous injuries, if any, and what was the impact of that approach? What is the purpose of continuing to do the exercise that caused it? What would you be getting in return that's worth the risk of further injury? Probably nothing in the face of recovery & better future performance.
Meet Your New Best Friends
This is a great option, especially for runners, as it mimics the motion of running without the pounding that can be detrimental for those recovering from injuries.
Take a bike ride outside or at your local gym. Indoor cycling can often be an even better option since you can avoid traffic, odd terrains, or unpleasing weather. If you're a runner, match your RPMs to your running cadence for a good workout.
Deep Water Running
An uncommon workout, but a difficult one at that. To do it, use a deep-water running belt, which holds you vertical in water and thereby works your legs as well as increases your heart rate without the energy expenditure of trying to stay afloat.
About the Author
Almila Kakinc-Dodd is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief of The Thirlby. She is also the author of the book The Thirlby: A Field Guide to a Vibrant Mind, Body, & Soul. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Nursing as a Dean’s Scholar at Johns Hopkins University. Her background is in Anthropology & Literature, which she has further enriched through her Integrative Health Practitioner training at Duke University. She lives in the Washington, D.C. Metro Area, where she regularly contributes to various publications. She is a member of Democratic Socialists of America and urges others to join the movement.