So you tore your ACL, sprained your ankle, blew out your knee or broke your arm on the field and your patience for treating your sports injury with R.I.C.E. is wearing thin. You’re counting your calories, watching your muscle tone waste away and overflowing with the need to keep your cardiovascular fitness going. What do you do?
No matter how badly you want to get back out there, treating your injury and following medical advice should take precedent. However, once you work through the initial treatment and the doctor clears you for exercise there are a number of things that you can do to stay on top of your training while healing.
First Things First, R.I.C.E.
Early treatment of sports injuries is key. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation and is an important strategy to reduce inflammation. It’s the inflammation around the injured joint that causes the most damage. If you want to heal faster, keep the inflammation down.
Always, always, always seek out medical advice.
I Have Medical Clearance to Exercise Uninjured Joints. Now What?
Now it’s time to get creative. Whether you have a lower body injury or you’ve blown out your shoulder, there is something that you can do to keep moving and get a great workout despite the injury.
Ideas for Cardio Workouts with Lower Body Injuries
For lower body sports injuries, the arm bike or arm ergometer is a great workout tool. While you will not burn as many calories pedaling the arm bike, you will have the opportunity to get in that cardiovascular workout while injured.
If you have the kind of injury where you are able to stand but apply vigorous exercise to the lower body, light drills on the speed bag will get your heart rate up quickly and provide a good base for interval training while injured.
To adapt this exercise for your injury, take a natural forward facing stance in front of the bag. Practice slow, speed-bag-like footwork, pacing side lightly while chopping at the bag with the side of your wrists. Once you have the movement down, try to sustain 30 second intervals on the bag with 30 second rest breaks.
Workouts with Arm, Shoulder or Wrist Injuries
The key to getting good cardio workouts in while healing from an upper body workout is avoiding working the injured joint. While running is a great exercise, if you have a shoulder injury, running can add irritate the injury from the constant motion.
Try cardio exercises that isolate the action as much as possible to the lower body. The stationary bike, stepper and elliptical trainer are obvious choices. My favorite while nursing an arm injury is the Cybex Arc Trainer. When using the Cybex with an arm injury, opt to not use the moving handles.