Smutty Fitness: Fitness during a stress fracture

September 14, 2016 21:30:58 Posted at September 14, 2016 21:30:58
Hayley Posted by Hayley

Hi Hayley,

I've really done it this time! I have been training through the summer for my next full marathon in Hamilton on November 5th. I was stopped in my tracks while running home from work last week by a shooting pain in the right foot. I believe I have a stress fracture, which the x-ray I went for didn't pick up, but I am sure the bone scan will see when I go for it next week.

Meanwhile, last Saturday night at my best friend’s wedding, my husband and I were dancing and had a freak dance accident which left me with a twisted ankle on the floor. I went this week to get an ultrasound and turns out, I have a full tear of my ATTF ligament. Although the pain is minimal, I am told the recovery is lengthy.

With a torn ligament in my left ankle and a stress fracture in my right foot, it is clear to me that I am taking some time off running. My question to you is, what sorts of exercises can I be doing to stay fit in the meantime? I cycle 10 km to and from work, but it just doesn't seem like enough. Upper body? Resistance bands?

Thank you for your help!


Wow. Does this ever bring back memories! I did the same thing to my ankle a few years back (although I did mine running, not dancing) and just like you I was six weeks out from running a marathon. I did manage to get better in time to run the half, but I don’t recommend that at all.

The first thing that you need to do is go online and find yourself another marathon to sign up for.   You should be good to start building up your running again in 6-8 weeks (with your doctor’s clearance of course) so early spring might be a good time to think about running another one. Don’t think you are getting out of crossing a marathon finish line because of a few injuries! It is just a little adversity which will make you stronger.

The second step is you need to take care of that stress fracture. This isn’t something to be taken lightly and you should work with a qualified professional to ensure you are fully healed before you place any impact on your foot.  Stress fractures that do not heal properly will continue to plague you, so perhaps the ankle tear is a blessing in disguise and it is forcing you to take a rest. Also, make sure you look into what caused the fracture. Was it biomechanical? Running too many miles? Nutritional? Talk to your health care provider to determine what caused it in order to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

As for your ankle, you need to let it rest. If you push it too hard it is going to take longer to heal, so stay off of it and when you have to be mobile use some crutches and if it’s swollen then wrap it and ice it. Since you will be working with a physio for your stress fracture already, you can also focus on healing your ankle! I found cold laser therapy worked the best for me, so see if you can find a physio or chiro that can offer that service to you.
In the meantime you have a few options to keep fit and maintain your sanity.

Upper body and core are a great option. I have a lot of clients who are amazed how much they can sweat when they only train their core and upper bodies. There are also some lower body exercises that you can do, which won’t place any stress on your ankles. Side leg raises and any other side glute work can be done, which will actually benefit you when you start back up running again.

For cardio, if cycling does not bother you then keep up with that and if you find 10km isn’t enough just add on a few more on your way home from work. I lived on the elliptical/cross trainer when I was injured. I would put it to its lowest incline (which is pretty similar to the running gait) and a fairly high resistance to get my heart rate up to the levels I would have it if I was running. It is boring but it works. Make sure you keep your heel planted through the motion to limit the strain on your ankle and if this causes you pain at any time then make sure you stop.

Get better soon!

Attached - Karolina Kurkova heading to the gym today.

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