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8 Emerging Alternative Fitness Options for Injured Athletes

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If you’re an athlete, no doubt you’re familiar with the disabled list (DL). Does being down for a few games necessarily need to equate to staying on the couch the whole time? Of course not! Even when you cannot perform at your peak, it’s possible to get in a workout, and doing so may even decrease your overall recovery time.

Some injuries, such as broken bones, do require rest time to heal properly. However, many common strains and sprains can be repaired faster with just a bit of TLC. Here are 10 suggestions for getting in a workout even if you’ll need to postpone the triathlon for another few months.

1. Take a Hike


Nothing heals and rejuvenates the soul like getting out in nature. Something about fresh air and sunshine prompts the immune system to work better, or the release of brain chemicals at least makes it feel like it does.

Hiking can range from simple strolls to vigorous bouldering, so while you’re on the mend, aim for trails rated as easy. Many local parks and rec departments make great starting points to find your next hike. Even taking a leisurely walk around local museum grounds has you lapping those sitting on the couch binge-watching Netflix and chomping on cheesy poofs.

2. Ride a Bike

Biking creates no impact on the body and makes for a handy way to get from point A to point B without increasing your carbon footprint. If you’re fortunate enough to live only a mile or so from your workplace, try cycling there instead of driving or taking the bus.

Tackle your Saturday errand run via pedal power. If you live in a hilly area or are injured to the point any exertion causes pain, consider renting an electric bike that allows you to switch from foot to engine power when the going gets especially rough.

3. Invest in Small Hand Weights

Yes, you can work out while watching TV — just make sure to keep an eye on your form and posture. A set of hand weights kept next to the couch or under your bed can help you squeeze in a workout in the privacy of your own home.

Using free weights has one major benefit over using equipment — because you must use muscle power and not mechanical support, you burn more calories in the same amount of time. Investing in weights in various sizes allows you to gradually build your strength back up one commercial break at a time.

4. Try Tai Chi

Tai chi is an ancient martial art that focuses on energy in the body. Movements are slow and controlled, and the practice looks a lot like a land-based version of a graceful underwater ballet. Tai chi helps to improve your core strength, which leads to better balance overall and may mean fewer injuries from falls down the road.

5. Do a Little Dance

Dancing can relieve stress and need not be high impact. Anyone who has ever bopped along while their fave hit plays in the car knows it’s possible to dance without moving your feet at all.

You need not take a heart-pounding Zumba class to reap the benefits of dancing for exercise. While you recover, you may wish to try ballroom dance or ballet — even professional football players use dance to stay on the top of their game (pun intended).

6. Pilates Updated

Pilates has existed for a long time, but many modern classes add a new twist by combining the practice with low-impact aerobics or yoga poses. This fusion presents the perfect way to keep your limbs strong and healthy while you recover. The movements can prove challenging, and taking a class led by a certified instructor is key to learning alternative moves to substitute for those that exacerbate your industry.

A recent study found those who completed an eight-week series of Pilates classes performed better both physically and cognitively than those who had not participated in the exercise program. If you find your mind growing sluggish while you’re convalescing, Pilates may be the perfect workout to get your brain back in the game.

7. Try a New Machine

Certain cardio machines can be godsends when you’re recovering, so don’t automatically shun the elliptical or lateral trainer as “hamster exercise.” Yes, riding a piece of cardio equipment may not have the enjoyment factor of going for a run outdoors, but when it comes to speeding recovery without losing all your hard-earned progress, it can come in handy.

8. Go for a Swim

Going water bound can help you expand your range of motion while injured and recover much more quickly. In fact, one researcher found when aquatic exercise programs commence six days following total knee arthroplasty, patient outcomes improve considerably.

Water supports your body weight, making moving injured limbs easier. For example, runners who suffer knee injuries find themselves returning to the race circuit more quickly when they have access to the ability to go for a light swim while injured.

9. Snag Some Resistance Bands

If your budget is slim or if you travel often for work, investing in resistance bands can help you stay active while you recover. You can start with very light ones and eventually build up when doing moves like leg extensions to strengthen muscles around the knee. You can also practice simple bodyweight exercises such as squats, pushups and situps anywhere you happen to be.

10. Work Out in Bed

It is possible to work out while lying in bed. You can use light weights or bands, or no equipment at all. You can do gentle yoga stretches to wind down at the end of a busy day, or more vigorous ones to wake yourself from sleep in a non-jarring manner. You can also perform simple isometric exercises like chest squeezes, and basic bodyweight exercises like leg lifts and crunches.

Keeping Moving with a Sports Injury

Sports injuries can put quite a damper on your training. However, getting hurt doesn’t need to mean you have to be completely dormant for weeks or months. By checking with your doctor and using common sense during convalescence, you can keep moving, maintain most of your hard-earned gains and return to full speed more quickly than you dreamed possible!

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