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

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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?