Injuries, especially for athletes, are among the worst disruptions to personal exercise regimens.
They not only inhibit physical movement but also muddy your outlook for the future. The whole world seems to stop and every little thing you used to do, every little step, every gesture, requires painstaking effort.
How on earth do you stay fit during such a stressful time? What can you do if you’ve broken an arm? An ankle? A leg?
Instead of seeing injury as the end to good fitness and overall health, look at it as a temporary break — no pun intended — from an already hackneyed routine.
Injuries provide a good time to take advantage of other fields of fitness and to try new things. Yes, I’m talking about that neat little term called cross-training.
For the majority of stubborn folks, the idea of broadening fitness horizons isn’t exactly appealing.
But waiting two or three months for an injury to fully heal can mean waiting an equal or even longer extent to return to your original routine. In such a lengthy period, you’re bound to lose the conditioning you worked so hard for pre-injury.
The goal of cross-training is not to maintain peak performance levels but to allow for the safe continuation of a fit and healthy lifestyle without compromising the recovery process.
Of course, those attempting to implement new fitness routines should always check with their personal physicians prior to starting any intense regimens.
Cross-training can be useful for the injured, but the most important aspect of recovery is rest.
Leg, Ankle and Knee Injuries:
Lower body injuries are some of the most debilitating, but that doesn’t mean they should be used as an excuse to sit around and shout at the TV all day.
Even if you’ve been confined to crutches or a wheelchair, don’t assume you’re immediately an outcast from the fitness world. Take it as an opportunity to shift your focus and begin building upper body strength.
Dumbbells are a good place to start, so head to the gym and give one a lift. You can sit or stand, depending on the severity of your injury, and still get as good a workout either way.
Dumbbells allow for a variety of moves, such as front and lateral raises or bicep and concentration curls. Always begin with smaller weights, especially if upper body fitness is relatively new to you. For the severely immobilized, lighter dumbbells can be purchased for under $30 online.
If you’re closing in on the end of your recovery period, swimming is a great way to reintroduce cardio exercise. The buoyancy of the water helps you refrain from putting any excess weight on the injured lower body, but kicking and leg extension are big no-no’s that can lead to further injury. Instead, opt for floaters and other buoy devices to limit movement of the injured areas.
Too busy for a trip to the gym or pool? Take your crutches for a walk. When properly used, crutches can act as temporary workout machines.
What a lot of people don’t know is that the proper usage of crutches requires immense strength in the arms and hands (not the armpits), and moving long distances can positively affect the triceps.
Arm and Shoulder Injuries:
Upper body injuries, though annoying, are not usually as impairing as lower body ones. Without the utility of the arms and hands, the cross-training focus should now shift to the lower body, primarily the legs.
One of the easiest and most convenient workouts is to go for a walk, whether it’s on a treadmill, around campus or just to the mailbox and back. Walking will provide you with increased stamina, even if it’s not at an Olympic pace.
For severe upper body injuries, though, keep the walking slow and steady. Don’t attempt a jog that could unnecessarily exacerbate shoulder pain.
Walking going well? Try adding some lunges to the routine. These simple strides will further improve the strength and flexibility in your quads and hamstrings.
Another option is to use stationary bicycles or elliptical machines.
Both stationary bikes and ellipticals are low-impact, cardio-centered tools that target not just the heart but the calves, glutes and core, providing you with a well-rounded workout.
So the next time you get an injury, don’t ignore the gym. Find new ways to work out and stay healthy.
Hannah Muniz is a sophomore majoring in East Asian languages and creative writing. Her column, “Fit ‘n Fab,” runs Mondays.