A few months ago I suffered a major ankle injury (torn tendons and a fracture). I am just now starting to walk on it again (with a boot) after using a scooter. I want to get back into a semi-normal workout routine (I usually practice Ashtanga or strong vinyasa flow yoga), but I don't think I can handle a workout that is spent standing for a majority of the time. Can you suggest some modifications, or seated or reclining exercises that will still get my heart rate up?
Injuries. They just suck, don’t they? Especially ankle injuries, because not only do you spend months hobbling around, you are also stuck wearing really unattractive shoes! The bright side of injuries is that they make you realize how much you love to work out, because by the sounds of it, you would do anything to get sweaty again.
The thing with injuries is that you have to respect them. You have to be patient and give your body time to heal. While you are injured you have to let go of the athlete you were and understand that it may take some time until you can push yourself again. When I tore my ankle ligaments I was training for a marathon and big into mountain biking, but the minute those ligaments snapped, my life went from the trails to the couch and ice became my best friend.
Now that you are back walking, please understand that you have spent the last couple of months doing nothing, and you will be a lot weaker than you were before the break. Not only do you need to ease back into your cardiovascular activities you also need to ease back into your strength activities because if you decide to pick up where you left off, your body will never heal. It will be a one step forward, two steps back pattern for a very long time.
Here is my advice, and you may not like it. You are going to get to a pool and the only cardio you will do is in the pool, until you can walk, bootless, without any pain. You can swim laps or you can do deep water running but make sure that there is no load on your ankle. Also, for the time being, your yoga practice is going to switch to a hatha or restorative yoga. Let the instructor know that you are injured and they will provide you with any modifications necessary.
All is not lost and you can still challenge yourself and get a bit of a sweat on with some strength exercises, upper body mostly. It can be tough to up the heart rate when you take using your legs out of the equation but with some creativity and focus it can be accomplished. Here is a little set that you can do with just a medicine ball for weight.
Alternating medicine ball push ups from your knees – Place the medicine ball underneath your right hand, in a push-up position from your knees. Do one push-up then once you are at the top, roll the ball to your left hand and do a push-up. Repeat this for 60 seconds.
Medicine ball dead bugs – lie on your back with your knees in tabletop position, feet off the floor, and the medicine ball in your hands, arms straight to the ceiling. Lower the ball behind you, towards the floor, as you kick one leg out straight. Return to the starting position then switch. Alternate between legs while keeping your abs strong and your spine connected to the mat. To make this harder kick out both legs at the same time. Repeat for 60 seconds.
Kneeling hip thrusts with medicine ball presses – kneel down and get your hips as close to your heels as you can. Engage your glutes and hamstrings to press your hips forward and reach the medicine ball overhead before lowering your hips down and bringing the ball back to your chest. Repeat for 60 seconds.
Medicine ball v-sit rotations – sit on the mat, back straight and knees bent with your heels firmly pressed into the mat. Holding the medicine ball, twist your body to one side, touching the ball to the floor, then twist to the other. If you want to make it harder, raise you heels off the floor, but only if you can keep the stress out of your hip flexors (I always do this with my heels down). Repeat for 60 seconds.
Kneeling side plank with medicine ball on your hip – this is just like doing a side plank from your feet but instead you will lift from your knees. Hold the medicine ball with your top hand as you keep it on your top hip, and work on pressing your hip into the ball to work your bottom glute. If you want to make it harder, straighten your top leg and lift your foot off the floor. To make it even harder, add some legs circles both forwards and back. Repeat 60 seconds on one side then 60 on the other.
You can go through this a few times and in between each set, for rest, do your rehabilitation exercises your physio has prescribed to you. (I am assuming you are seeing a physio, and if not get your butt into one pronto).
As you start to have less pain in your ankle, get on the rowing machine, a stationary bike or an elliptical and start to progress slowly. Start with 10 minutes, see how it feels, and if you are pain free the next day then keep upping it. Listen to your body as it knows what it needs and will let you know if you’ve pushed too hard.
When your ankle is back to 100% get back to your regular routine but remember for the first few weeks it is going to feel extremely hard. Be kind to yourself, have zero expectations and work slowly to build your fitness level. Once you are back to you then hit the ground running!