So you’ve finally gotten where you want to be as an athlete: you ran that triathlon, biked that mountain, or maybe just finally got to a good place where you can run a couple of trail laps around the park without feeling like the slowest person there.
Then, bam. You get a stress fracture in your foot, a torn ACL, or a lower back strain. And then…nothing. Just weeks of waiting it out on the couch, binge-watching Netflix until you start back from zero?
Maybe not. According to physical therapist Annette Marshall Franey, it’s important to stay in shape after an injury to avoid weight gain, muscle loss, and even re-injury from the strain of trying to get back into a workout routine after remaining sedentary for too long.
She says that after your doctor clears you for easing back to low impact workouts, gradually increasing your activity rate by 10 percent per day is a good rule for keeping the body well enough to bounce back. (Are you into the super-crazy-futuristic science version? You might want to check out Exercise While You Rest with the CVAC Pod).
“It is important to maintain fitness after an injury so that when your injured body part is healed, the rest of you is all ready to go,” Franey says.
The best exercises to maintain fitness while on the mend are low and no impact workouts that burn calories without putting excessive stress on the joints.
Water workouts, according to Franey, are great for recovery. “Getting in the water is a great way to stay in shape, paddling a surfboard can be a great upper body and aerobic workout if you need to keep your knee or ankle out of your workouts,” she says. (Everybody is talking about Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga right now…so maybe this is worth checking out?)
But if you’re not near the beach or a pool, or maybe swimming just isn’t your style, you should look for machines at the gym that can provide activity without pushing. “An upper body ergometer (or rowing machine) will do the same as paddling or swimming,” she says.
And if you have an upper body injury, try the stationary bike, which gives you the opportunity to gradually increase resistance without putting undo stress on your joints.
And most importantly, says Franey, don’t be afraid to get back out there. “Remember that our bodies are built to heal,” she says. “For every day of bed rest, we need three days of exercise to recover, so keep moving as much as your body lets you.”
More on recovery…