Injuries SUCK! That’s a simple matter of fact. I went from working out 5-6 days a week to not being able to lift weights or do much of any cardio for the last 4 1/2 months due to injuries from a car accident.
I now suffer from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, so I have nerve pain down my right arm, and I’m not supposed to lift it above 90 degrees because my blood supply becomes compressed and my arm goes numb/tingly. I also have problems with my neck and lower back, so I am limited as to what I can do.
It was very frustrating not being able to perform daily tasks, let alone exercise for the first while. I was going stir crazy from resting! But slowly I started feeling like I was ready to tackle some activities again, so I have looked for ways I can exercise without causing further injury.
Before I share how I have been able to stay active, I want to remind you how important it is to listen to YOUR body. Something I can do may not be something your injuries allow and vice versa. Feel free to try these methods, but please stop or modify if they are not right for you.
1. Walk your dog
As long as you have a trained dog who doesn’t pull too much when on the leash, this is a fairly low impact way to get that cardio in. If you’re able to go for long walks, that’s great, but if not, try taking your dog for shorter walks a few times a day. Getting outside will help clear your mind, allow you to destress, your body will thank you for moving, and you get to spend time with your best friend.
2. Go to the dog park
This is something I do regularly because it allows the dogs to socialize and get rid of some energy, and I can walk at my own pace. Not to mention, it also gives me the chance to meet new people. It’s great because Axel still pulls quite hard on the leash, so it’s challenging on my arm and back when I’m trying to keep him beside me. At the dog park I make sure to walk around so I’m still getting the exercise in, but I also have the chance to take breaks and laugh at my oh so graceful pup.
3. Park Far Away
In our busy schedules we often feel rushed to get tasks done and try to park as close to our destination as possible. I challenge you to take a few extra minutes to park as far away from the building as you can in the parking lot. Park a block or two away from your friend’s house. Get off the train or bus a stop early. When I was a practicum student at Rockyview General Hospital, I would drive to the boat launch by Heritage Park and walk 15 minutes to the hospital. The walk was beautiful…along the river, along Heritage Park, then down a bike path where I was able to take in the beautiful sunrise. The fresh air made me feel great, I had the chance to appreciate the nature around me, and there were multiple hills to turn my jaunt into a workout. Trust me, I was sweating by the time I got indoors.
4. Take the stairs
If you live in Calgary or another large city, chances are you have the option to take the elevator at some point in your day. Instead, opt for taking the stairs. Sometimes I spend 20 minutes of my lunch break getting those steps in. It is amazing the difference walking up and down the stairs every day can make on your cardiovascular stamina. Pay attention to how you feel after walking up 4-5 flights on day 1 compared to day 10, 20, and 30.
5. Yoga and meditation
Mental health is a huge component of dealing with any form of injury. I remember feeling so agitated the first few weeks after my accident because I was told to rest all day. Yoga and meditation do wonders for helping me feel at peace and I am reminded to be grateful for what I CAN do rather than concentrating on what I CAN’T do. I have started waking up early to get a session in before heading off to work so I can start the day with good intentions. This has made a world of difference and I encourage you to do the same. If you don’t own a yoga mat, here is one I really like.
Lately I have been focusing on a saying that has really put everything into perspective for me and changed how I react to situations:
“The attitude you bring to the day is what the day will bring to you. Great attitude. Great day.”– Unknown
6. Go Swimming
Swimming is a great exercise that is often implemented in a recovery routine. It’s a full body workout and there are so many different things you can do. Go swim laps, join an aerobics class, take your kids to the pool. A bonus is that you can use the hot tub when you’re finished to help relax those muscles you put to work.
7. Get a Gym Membership
Going to the gym can still be an option for you; you just have to know your limits. Start off by walking on the treadmill at an incline. This will allow you to burn more calories without the high impact. Spend 10-15 minutes on the bike, or use the rowing machine. The rower is great for a full body workout. If you’re ready to start weight lifting, use the machines for a few weeks and see how that feels. Leave the dumbbells and pulley machines until you are sure your body is ready; these offer less or no assistance to you, whereas the other machines provide some assistance.
Whatever you decide to do, start off slow and for shorter periods of time 1-2 times a week. See how you feel after a few weeks before you increase the frequency and intensity. If you feel pain at any time make sure to stop rather than pushing through the pain or you could injure yourself more.
8. Utilize Physio
Physio is expensive if you have to pay for it on your own, but if it’s covered by insurance I highly recommend using it. Working with my physiotherapist and kinesiologist at Accident Rehabilitation Centre has been a life saver. Not only do the services they provide during my appointment help tremendously, but they also advise me of exercises and stretches to do at home to aid in my recovery. They guide me on how I can slowly ease back into activities, which ones will be good for me, and which ones I should stay away from. For example, I had thought running would be good cardio for me to do, but I was in a lot of pain and had numbness in my legs every time after. I found out from physio that running should be one of the last cariovascular exercises I take on and that I should start with biking instead.
No matter what activities you perform, remember it is important to stretch and use a foam roller when you are finished. This not only helps with flexibility, but also keeps your muscles from seizing. When stretching, be sure to hold each position for 30 seconds and it’s a good idea to do the same stretch twice. Click here for a great list (with images) of stretches for the full body.
Keep in mind: a small change every day can have a large impact in the future.