How to stay in shape while injured

Teddy bear with bandages on head, nose and legs as if it was injured

Struggling with an injury while the world goes by is the pits! If this article reaches you with a plaster cast on your leg or finds you on a chair with a sling on your arm and Jezza Kyle for company, I feel for you. I really do.

The circumstances might tempt you to seek solace in a Big Mac, a few beers, a packet of Mars Bars, or all of them and more. Just as a treat, mind. But soon you want another treat. And another. And another.

And before you know it, you’ve ballooned right out of the park. Hell, even Mr Blobby looks slim and graceful compared to you (anyone remember him?).

So here’s my guide to how to stay in shape while injured and keep the Mr Blobby jokes and the kilos at bay. 

Eat clean

Purge your diet of fiendish foods that taste good but play holy hell with your waistline. Replace unhealthy snacks with fruit or cereal (watch out for the sneaky hidden sugars). Live on the edge and mix your Rice Krispies with banana!

If you’re coming back from surgery, ignore the popular UK legend that a good cup of tea solves everything. It nearly solves everything, true, but you need more than a good cuppa to heal up.

With that in mind, my top tip on this front would be to eat lean white meat.

Take chicken and turkey, for instance. Filling. Tasty. Packed with protein. And you can eat loads without piling on the pounds (unless it’s KFC!).

The bad news is, you can’t pouch Chicken McNuggets every day.

Double damn those transfats! You’d have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for those meddling kids!

Chicken nuggets with fries and ketchup on a plate

Nuggets are off!

Drink water

Are you scoffing all the time? Drink more water and you’ll curb your appetite. Everyone knows that.

But there’s more. True story.

For every 8oz of water you drink, your body burns 7 calories (hat tip to Men’s Health!). Chug 10 glasses of iced water a day for a week and you can burn 490 calories. Which’ll do nicely.

So go on. Have a little glass of water with Jezza, Judge Judy and other daytime TV royalty and rip your metabolism out of its slumber. They might just have their uses after all!

Find alternative forms of exercise

Sprain your ankle and it’s not the end of the world. Break your leg, and there’s still tomorrow. Damage your collarbone, arm or wrist, and all hope is not lost.

The trick is to exercise the uninjured half of your body.

When it’s a lower torso injury

Concentrate on your upper body. You can work your arms and keep up your cardio fitness with an arm ergometer (an exercise bike for the arms – handy if you’re competing on Gladiators!).

Shoulder presses, pec-deck flyes, dips and chin-ups will do the business weights wise. You might even choose to eek out some press-ups. Whatever you do, be careful of any pressure the exercises place on your knees, mind. Don’t push it.

Personally, the best form of exercise for the job is swimming, in my opinion.

Okay, so it doesn’t have the fat-burning credentials of running or cycling, nor the muscle-building prowess of the weights. Fair play. But it’s not to be sniffed at, either. Combine swimming with a decent diet and you have a serious toning tool.  

Swim plenty and you’ll shape up your physique in an attractive natural fashion. Improving cardio and toning, it’s two for the price of one. You get to splash around, too, of course. Can’t do that on a bench press, so pop a float between your legs and swim for the shore!

Man staying in shape by swimming

When it’s an upper torso injury

It’s certainly a pesky blighter not being able to use your arms to exercise.

But you at least have the option of working up a sweat on the exercise bike – hooray! Depending on your injury, a recumbent exercise bike might be better than an upright one.

If you’re turning to the weights, blitz your legs with leg extensions, reverse leg curls and leg presses (vertical and/or inclined). Just like the upper body exercises, though, be careful about any pressure the exercises place on your injured half.

Then there’s my old mucka and go-to exercise, swimming. Hello, old friend!

Hold a float out in front of you with both hands and kick your way up and down the pool on your front with everything you’ve got. It’s a cardio workout and a half!

Most importantly…

Just as with getting into shape, staying in shape when you’re injured is about mental toughness. Pass on the takeaways, chocolates and fizzy drinks. It’s about feeling good mentally when you’re much the opposite physically.

Not easy. But think of the benefits and let them drive you forward. The junk food brings you do; the clean foods raise you higher. 

Have a speedy recovery, and don’t worry, you’ll be break dancing again in no time!

Images taken from Pixabay, used under CC license 1.0

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