Smutty Fitness: Working out through injuries

Hayley Posted by Hayley at September 14, 2018 18:52:12 September 14, 2018 18:52:12

Hi Hayley, 

As I write this I’m feeling very discouraged (and sorry for myself). I’ve managed to get into a really good rhythm with exercise this year: I’ve been running with a friend 3x per week for the last several months and we recently ran a 10k race (my first in 17 years) and we’re training for more. I’ve also been having good results with Fitness Blender exercise programs - a mix of cardio, HIIT, strength training and stretching workouts. All told, I’ve been working out consistently 4-6 times per week for the last 6 months – it’s done wonders for my overall fitness, mental health and confidence. 

That came to a temporary halt on a run on Labour Day, when my foot got caught on a crumbling piece of sidewalk and did a number on my ankle. X-rays showed a tiny crack; at doc’s advice I went for a tensor bandage and crutch combo; assuming a follow-up X-ray in a couple of weeks shows that things are healing properly, she seems to think I’ll be running again in about 3 weeks. But, I’ve had ankle injuries in the past and they’ve taken a lot longer than 3 weeks to heal. And the advice on the internet (hopefully I’m looking at reliable sources) also implies longer recovery. 

I’m terrified of taking big steps backward in my fitness during recovery, or even just getting out of the habit/discipline I’ve managed to build this year. But I also don’t want to risk injuring myself further. 

I’ve been thinking about the things I might be able to do while I recover - upper body (seated) workouts, core work, maybe some Pilates moves. I can probably do some swimming at some point. I have also read that cycling can be good, but I can’t stand spinning classes, and I live in a hilly neighborhood so I’m not sure I’d be able to tackle much outdoor cycling. 

Would love your advice on staying fit while recovering from injury, and then also how to rebuild once I’m able to resume my normal workout activities in a way that avoids re-injuring my ankle. 

I’ve been able to wear clothes that haven’t fit for a while - I would hate to go backwards! 



Injuries, they are a part of an active lifestyle and let me be honest with you in the fact that you are not the first person to have a setback so you need to stop feeling sorry for yourself. The first step to recovering from an injury is being positive about it. 


So how do you stay fit while injured? Start by staying of the internet and listen to your doctor instead. When your doc gives you the ok to weight-bear again then you can start increasing your intensity. Until you get the ok, do things that won’t add to your recovery time.  

Swimming is a good place to start but limit your kicking for now. Use a pool buoy between your legs (which will help keep you afloat) and focus on just using your arms. You can try a little bit of kicking using a kick board, but if it causes even a little bit of pain back off. Listen to your body because it will tell you what works and if it is in pain what you are doing is not working. If you do happen to cause it to throb or swell, it is not the end of the world as icing or taking anti-inflammatories should help it settle. 

Definitely get yourself into a Pilates class but do a mat class over a reformer class. Modify any planking exercises by doing them from your knees and when back-bridging, keep both feet on the floor. Every other exercise in Pilates should be ok for you to do, but make sure you tell the instructor first before going into the class that you will need to modify a few movements. Also, going to the gym and doing upper body exercises as well as exercises that won’t affect your ankle (leg extensions, hamstring curls, thigh work with bands) will also help keep your fitness level up.


Once you get the ok to weight-bear (don’t do it a minute before) then start using an elliptical or cross trainer.  This will start to rebuild your cardiovascular endurance as well as help to get your running muscles working again. Keep the resistance at a medium intensity, the legs moving fast and the incline low so the motion is almost identical to running. If you push yourself hard on one of these machines you can get quite the sweat going. When you are ready to start running again, start slow on a treadmill and do a few runs where you walk/run. It won’t take long before you feel like your old self again.

As for your fear of not being able to fit into your clothes, unless you are spending your evenings drowning your sorrows in cake, you’ll be fine. Continue eating as you always have and don’t stress about it. You may even find that you eat a little less as your body isn’t needing as many calories and I actually wouldn’t be surprised if you even lost a little weight during this time.

Like you, I once rolled my ankle and tore every ligament 6 weeks before a marathon. I was devastated but I listened to the advice of my physio and stayed off it and iced the sh-t out of it for 3 weeks. I know how hard it is not to work out.  Once it no longer hurt to weight-bear, I started on the elliptical, working up to 60 minutes, and then a few weeks after that I hit the pavement running. I didn’t manage to run the marathon, but I ran the half and I ran a personal best. All is not lost.


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