8 Ways to Keep Active When You Can't Exercise Like Normal

133SHARES

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
10/4/2012 2:00 PM   :  34 comments   :  22,448 Views

See More: injury, exercise, sunscreen,
A few weeks ago, I had a spot removed from my shoulder. My dermatologist cut out a pretty hefty chunk that required several stitches and has left me with a one-inch scar.
Relief that the sketchy spot was history was soon replaced by panic when I was given post-op instructions:
  • no lifting more than 10 pounds
  • no lifting my arm past 90 degrees
  • no running
  • no bike riding or Spinning
  • no yoga involving arms or any weight on the wrists
None of that for two weeks. TWO WEEKS! What?

I exercise for a lot of reasons: for my health, to keep my weight in check, to get stronger, to help deal with stress, for the feeling it gives me, because I like it. I like staying active, and I find that the more I move, the better I feel. My back pain flares up if I skip even two days of yoga, I notice my anxiety levels rise on days I don't work out, and I just feel like something is missing from my day if I haven't sweated at least once. In addition to running two or three days a week, I usually take a weekly Pilates and Spinning class, and I walk a lot on weekends and in the evenings.

I had been forewarned that yoga would be out--no weight on the arms or wrists. But running? No running? And no Spinning? I actually cried a little.

As I lay face down on the table, I thought about all I could do, and I decided to use this as a chance to focus on exercises that I usually skimp on--power walking, core exercises, and strength training.

These two weeks would be good for me.

So what did I do?

I tracked my calories. Though I was able to reach my fitness goals for the week, I had to be creative. I wasn't burning as many calories as usual, so I knew I needed to cut back slightly. Instead of my usual 2,000 (maintenance mode for my very active lifestyle), I needed only about 1,600. Without vigorous cardio workouts, I didn’t need my usual post-workout protein shake, and my hunger levels were a little lower. The first couple of days were tough, but I stick to my limits!
I practiced yoga anyway. The biggest surprise of all was how much of my usual yoga practice I could do. Instead of taking "vinyasas" (plank-up dog-down dog transitions between sides and poses), I did boat pose, focusing on keep my core tight and strong. I've noticed a difference in just two weeks of the added core work, and though my shoulders were sore this week when I resumed my usual practice, I didn't lose much strength.
I did more lunges and squats, which I usually hate doing. There are stairs a few doors down from my building that lead six blocks north. Just walking up them is enough to leave you out of breath (Cincinnati is full of steep hills), but I used these stairs for body weight training. I went up and down them, lunging and squatting on the way up. This replaced running as my "hard" workouts for the week--no hands needed!
I power walked, taking advantage of Cincinnati's hills. In high school and when I first started to lose weight, my primary form of cardio was walking. I forgot how much I love it. I walked for an hour a couple of times last week, and I was sweating and feeling the burn. Walking works you muscles differently than running, and I always feel a good brisk walk in my glutes the next day!
I worked on my abs. In addition to adding in more core work to my yoga practice, I did a couple of Pilates-inspired workouts. I used some of Nicole's demos and what I have learned in Pilates classes. I tend to skimp on core training since I practice yoga and it works the core, but it was nice to have the time
I meditated and focused on deep breathing. Even this yoga teacher can forget sometimes that yoga is not just about the physical practice. It runs much deeper. I focus more on asana (poses) than I do pranayama (breathing exercises) or dharana/dhyana (concentration/meditation), so cutting back on my asana practice left more time for these activities. (Here's a quick breathing exercise that can help you relax in just two minutes.)
I did Nicole's workout from SELF magazine, with modifications. A few of us (Coach Nicole included) have been doing her workout from SELF magazine twice a week. The first week I had to modify quite a bit, with no jumping, no weights, and few arm movements. Believe me, it was still tough!
I rested. I usually practice yoga in the mornings, then do a cardio or strength workout at night. I rest on average one day a week, and even on that day I walk. I love being active. Over Labor Day weekend, I spent two days lazing about and avoiding the rain. I didn't do a single workout for 2 1/2 days, and it felt great to let my body chill. It was completely out of character to not do much of anything, watch hours of TV and movies on my computer, and just lie around--but it was exactly what I needed and wanted.
My stitches came out after 10 days, and I'm back to normal. My scar is healing quickly. When I look at it, I'm reminded not only of the importance of sun protection but also of regular exercise. I could have used my stitches as an opportunity to laze about for two weeks, but I didn't. It's easy to maintain healthy habits when you're in good health or when life is going as planned. But where's the lesson in that? By staying active and abiding by my healthy living philosophy in tough times, I believe that those habits become more deeply entrenched upon our lives. Do you agree?
Have you ever had an injury or procedure that has prevented you from working out? How did you cope? How did you modify your routine?
 
 
 


Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
 

NEXT ENTRY >   Set Realistic Goals for Success

Great Stories from around the Web

Comments

  • 34
    I spent all summer working up a walking routine to interval speed walking -- then in the fall tried interval jogging. Nope! Messed up a tendon day one. By then the weather was getting bad anyway so I switched to no-impact gazelle and elliptical for the winter. I hope to get back to the speed walking, at least, come spring. - 1/13/2014   7:45:19 PM
  • 33
    Ah, I love to be outside, and I wish my body liked walking... I had a nasty skin patch on my lower leg removed two months ago that was large and couldn't be stitched up, so I had a skin graft -- which failed. I'm still dealing with a wound that hasn't healed yet (though it's close!). I am absolutely desperate to get to the pool, because walking actually gives me more aches and pains than it relieves. I need to move my whole body through its range of motions. Fortunately, I'm able to go back to the gym, which is very helpful, as many of the weight training exercises I do are done sitting down and do work my whole body. But I want to get in the water, where there's no gravity and I can move into positions I can't possibly do on land.

    I can't help but feel when reading this article that it's very different for somebody who is already fit and at a proper weight. I will allow that I, too, could be doing core exercises, but it's the aerobic and free-flowing movements that nourish me. Right now I feel too stiff even to move to a CD in the privacy of my home, which is another form of exercise that usually works for me. And yes... I'm complaining and not doing. - 1/13/2014   1:39:47 PM
  • 32
    Thank you so much for sharing this blog. I get frustrated with spark friends who have injuries or medical reasons to change their exercise and REST the affected area who simply won't or can't because they have no idea how to continue MOVING and moving towards their goals without their "regular routine". I think people are scared. I know for myself I LOST weight while I was recovering from surgery because I slept more. I had no idea how sleep helped until then. And changing the routines also helped get me through a plateau. I wish spark people focused on this problem more! - 10/8/2012   11:10:01 AM
  • 31
    Good for you! When I lived in Dayton, I frequently went to Cincinnati to walk around, especially along the river. What a great city! I also discovered Charley Harper there (created many posters for Cincinnati parks), and I now have several pieces of his art work. - 10/7/2012   9:16:10 AM
  • 30
    Last year I had a severe ankle injury. After several weeks of being practically immobile and with a cast and crutches (I was not allowed to stand on that leg at all) I´ve started with very short walks. Just a couple of meters at a time. Tell me about making small baby steps or taking it one step at a time! Even though I had to leave my jazz and modern dancing, after several months I was able to come back to flamenco dancing. Well, I´m 40+ so I knew I would have to stop with my dancing sometime, nevertheless it was not easy. Paradoxically the fact that I had to start with those very very short walks has helped me because I´ve focused on adding just a bit of walk, just one more block, just one more minute of rehabilitation exercising every day, and I couldn´t sit and feel depressed and sad for myself. So take it one step at time, there´s no other way. - 10/7/2012   5:25:42 AM
  • 29
    I like your point about resting. This is something I am working to make time for in my life. Earlier this year a medication was causing swelling in my legs. I bought an anti-gravity lounge chair and gave myself a "prescription" to sit in it for at least 10 minutes each day. The swelling issues are long gone (after another change in medication), but I have kept up with the resting. As a busy single mom to 2 active kids with multiple disabilities, it has been a challenge for me to make time to prioritize my own needs, but I am learning. Rest (and adequate sleep!-but that's another topic) is important for healing and stress relief. - 10/6/2012   11:51:52 PM
  • 28
    MOM2ACAT: GOD BLESS YOU AND YOUR LOVES ONE. - 10/6/2012   4:10:11 PM
  • 27
    Well done for sticking with this. It would have very easy to use your surgery as an excuse to take it easy for a few days. Then it would have been harder to get your fitness back again afterwards. That's an inspiration to me, since I very often seem to see multiple excuses around me for not exercising! Thanks for posting :-) - 10/6/2012   5:28:04 AM
  • 26
    I have stage IV breast cancer, and I am chronically fatigued due to anemia from chemo. I also have a hip that is damaged from the cancer, so I cannot walk or stand for long periods of time. I work around that by doing chair workouts, such as Sit and Be Fit and Jodi Stolove's chair aerobic DVDs. I also use a stability ball and use dumb bells for strength training. I'm wish I could do more than what I am doing now, but doing those activities, even if I have to sit in a chair, really helps with my pain issues and helps to keep my flexible, and hopefully it's helping to prevent me losing any more bone mass. (My cancer has spread to the bones.) - 10/5/2012   12:27:02 PM
  • DIETER27
    25
    So glad you are okay. Glad you didn't give up! Excellent suggestions and thanks for the details. - 10/5/2012   10:47:16 AM
  • 24
    I just had a surprise appendectomy (it was supposed to be laparoscopic surgery to remove an ovarian cyst...but what they thought was a cyst was actually an appendiceal tumor - benign, as it turns out) that required the full midline laparotomy. Meaning I was sliced from belly button down to the pubis bones. I was told no running for four weeks, no strength training or ab work or Zumba for six weeks, and to take it easy and get lots of rest.

    I hate resting.

    I too cried about this. Repeatedly. It doesn't help that I became a compulsive exerciser during the whole weight loss thing, to the point where I've lost my period and am infertile at a time when I really want to conceive. But I just have a hard time with "taking it easy" and not pushing myself physically these days. I ended up walking a LOT after the surgery, since walking was allowed. Probably not at the pace I pushed myself too, though...whooops. I ended up hurting my knee first. Then both ankles. These things are finally starting to heal (knock on wood). I also started jogging veeery slowly and carefully after about two weeks, and it went okay. I tried some crunches and strength training as well at that point, but OH that was a mistake. That hurt the incision quite a lot afterward. This morning, however, is about 3 1/2 weeks after surgery, and I did about 5 minutes of very moderate crunches this morning without too much trouble.

    So basically, I'm not listening to the doctors and instead am trying to listen to my own body. Sometimes I'm wrong (last weekend was too soon for strength training) and sometimes I'm right (last weekend was okay for jogging). Do you have any advice for people who aren't allowed to strength train or do core work either? I hate walking. It's SUPER boring. Are there any seated or low impact cardio workouts that don't require a lot of core use or big arm movements that could pull at an abdominal incision? - 10/5/2012   9:11:14 AM
  • DOINITRIGHT2012
    23
    I have several medical conditions including Adrenal Insufficiency. Trainers absolutely refuse to work with me because of the risk of me going into shock. The important thing with ANY program is to know and respect your body, then get creative. Yes, there are days (like yesterday) where I had to take off completely until I could figure out what my body was rebelling against, but often times when I struggle it just means I need to alter my plans....doing mild yoga or isometrics instead of lifting and walking intstead of running. At times I change the amount of time engaged in an activity, breaking it into short intervals throughout the day rather than doing an intense hour. When I asked my endocrinologist for help in becoming active 4 years ago She said the best thing to me. First off, she said no one has ever tried because it's just too risky and frustrating, and then she said "Listen to your body." I'm all ears :) - 10/5/2012   6:04:53 AM
  • 22
    It just shows what can be done when you want to

    - 10/5/2012   3:39:03 AM
  • 21
    Thank you so much for this. This is exactly what I have had to do, on and off, for the past few months. It is a very good time to balance my fitness routine. I am so hooked on my runs.
    - 10/5/2012   1:22:50 AM
  • 20
    I have to be off my foot due to foot surgery for 6-8 weeks, total 10 weeks of recovery time. Now on week 4 and feeling very antsy. This was a very inspiring blog. I also liked some of other SP members' comments which were helpful. - 10/4/2012   11:47:05 PM
  • 19
    Thanks for the ideas, I'm due to get knee replacements in the next few months and I know there will be lots of rehab but can't bear the idea of not getting more exercise, the kind that leaves you tired but also relieves stress. Music always helps! - 10/4/2012   11:31:35 PM
  • 18
    I'm glad your didn't give up. - 10/4/2012   10:47:28 PM
  • 17
    Sounds like you handled the restrictions very well-almost like none. Glad you are O.K. and good for you for the way you met this challenge - 10/4/2012   10:16:19 PM
  • 16
    I remember years ago I broke a bone in my hand at karate class and had to finish my summer term in a cast - so push-ups of course were out. Good to see you figured out a work around. - 10/4/2012   8:37:18 PM
  • 15
    I had sclerotheraphy and can't do anything but walk for 2 weeks. It's making me nuts!! One more week to go. - 10/4/2012   8:05:27 PM
  • CHERIEMAX
    14
    After injuring my leg muscle overdoing regular aerobics and yoga, I took to the water. I wholeheartedly recommend water aerobics with its different type of resistance, which soon got me walking normally without any pain. - 10/4/2012   7:10:11 PM
  • 13
    tore my rotator cuff a few weeks ago. I'm having to improvise a lot on my Tae Bo workouts, but I haven't overdone it. I've also done a lot more walking (both at work and on my off-time) and taking the stairs. It's worked great so far. Lost 11 pounds. :) - 10/4/2012   7:04:30 PM
  • 12
    Actually, I've torn the Medial Meniscus in both knees and just saw the surgeon today. He said to change up to the bike and eliptical as they are much easier on my knees. I've held off doing any exercise until seeing him so this was great news that I can my cardio up. He said to increase the resistance and get a good sweat going. So that's my new routine. It's really difficult when you knees are hurt as everything seems to be geared around squats, lifts, bends etc. - 10/4/2012   6:33:26 PM
  • 11
    Sometimes I need to do a little something different without using me arms , your blog was most helpful. - 10/4/2012   6:15:28 PM
  • 10
    So glad that you are ok....Yay!!! And thanks for the great example of how to not let bad things keep you down... - 10/4/2012   5:42:41 PM
  • MILINDAMELINDA
    9
    sprained my ankle playing tennis. Let it rest for two weeks, twisted it again. It has completely thrown me off my awesome working-out streak. This is great advice, although unfortunately, I am not sure what exercises I can do that will not aggravate my ankle... - 10/4/2012   4:09:05 PM
  • RUNNINGYOGINIRE
    8
    I had a melanoma spot removed from my thigh... I ran a 10K race 3 days later - no problem and continued doing hot yoga every day - no problem. I just kept the area clean. - 10/4/2012   3:54:50 PM
  • RLHOOPER
    7
    Thanks for this article! I'm having wrist surgery in a couple of weeks, and am not looking forward to the post-op restrictions. Now I've got a few things I can do and not feel like a slug during recovery! - 10/4/2012   3:38:02 PM
  • 6
    I presently have an ankle that is sprained and am unable to walk which is my for of cardio, Can you suggest what I could do so i can work out? I've been off of it for almost 2 weeks and it doesn't seem to be getting any better. How long does it take to get better? - 10/4/2012   3:35:44 PM
  • 5
    I'm actually dealing with this right now. I hurt my back last weekend (ironically, probably while lifting weights at the gym). So for now, I'm not doing weights and the past few days I've gotten back in the pool. I have rotator cuff tendinitis so I can't do crawl, but seem to be doing fine with breast, back and side strokes. It definitely seems to be helping the back; seems like the worse thing is staying still! - 10/4/2012   3:34:30 PM
  • 4
    I recently had an Achilles tendon strain, so I had to stop running for 3 weeks. Did a LOT of swimming, which was OK with my Dr! - 10/4/2012   3:23:48 PM
  • 3
    GREAT article.

    When I hurt my achilles, the walking was out. As was, what seemed like, everything else.

    So I took to the pool. I treaded water and did some other cardio and strengthening exercises that helped me take advantage of the near weightlessness of being in the water. It was a great rest and provided some better stretching than I can do on land. - 10/4/2012   3:16:45 PM
  • 2
    I am in week 10 of a stress fracture in my foot, and have been able to do NO weight bearing cardio at all.
    I think the most important thing for me has been doing everything possible to cultivate a positive attitude around it.
    So I replace, "I can't believe I can't run, I am such a slug" with "this is a great chance to really focus on my core". I replace, "I'll never work out again (in a whiny voice) with, "without this injury I never would have gotten into strength training this consistently!".
    It is rough, trying to be positive throughout. I swear I will never take cardio for granted again! - 10/4/2012   2:17:59 PM
  • 1
    Excellent suggestions, described in detail. Thanks! - 10/4/2012   2:16:51 PM

Please Log In To Leave A Comment:    Log in now ›


Join SparkPeople.com

x Lose 10 Pounds by December 11! Get a FREE Personalized Plan