How to exercise with a foot injury

I’ve been learning how to manage with a foot injury since July 2020. It’s a long story, but I have a combination of a bone bruise on my heel and some tendon and ligament damage around the ankle itself. In October it became clear that I had to find a way to go non-weight bearing, which is scary when you have a very active home and work environment.

I delayed going non-weight bearing on my foot simply because I didn’t know that this handy dandy device called the iWalk 2.0 existed. As an acupuncturist, I can’t perform my job on crutches, and my office is too narrow to successfully navigate on a knee scooter. Luckily when it became clear that I couldn’t delay non-weight bearing any longer, a google search for knee scooters brought up the iWalk 2.0. It’s great for foot and ankle injuries if you have good balance. If you do not have good balance, this is really not the right tool for you. As someone that loves tree pose in yoga, it is a good fit for me.

The next challenge was trying to find a way to exercise! I have long relied on exercise for my stress relief and mental health wellness, and losing the ability to ride even a stationary bike (yes, I actually can’t ride a stationary bike with my foot injury, yikes!), it left me struggling in many ways. I do love swimming, but at this point in time, I personally don’t feel comfortable swimming indoors during the pandemic. This is simply because I see a diverse patient body, and I want to have an abundance of caution about my activities. If I worked solely from home, I probably would feel comfortable swimming.

So what did I find for cardio exercises with my non-weight bearing situation?

Two things have completely turned my life around.

1. I bought a small hand cycle for under $40. These are designed to be used either as a hand cycle on a table for your arms, or to be a discrete foot cycle for under your desk while at work. Obviously, this is only for my arms at this point in my life, but I do look forward to being able to use it under my desk as a foot cycle once I’m done with my non-weight bearing penance.

I’d originally thought that you couldn’t get a good cardio workout on these little devices. I was wrong. Try mixing up the speed and resistance. You can easily get a workout equivalent or greater than a brisk walk outdoors.

2. I discovered Chair Cardio. If this makes you think of really slow, easy movements while seated, you won’t be alone. However, there are a number of excellent Youtube channels now with athletic trainers or health coaches making very challenging. My favorite chair cardio channel at this point in time for the heart pumping possibilities and good variety of movements is She’s very positive and perky, which may or may not float your boat, but the workouts are golden. She also has floor routines to do with an injured foot. I cannot tell you the level of gratitude that I have for finally finding a way to get my heart rate up while living a non-weight bearing life on one foot.

Prior to discovering or re-discovering the new and improved chair cardio options, I was doing a series of strength training workouts that focused on my core, arms, and shoulders. This was all wonderful, and I actually worked with a personal trainer virtually via zoom. I Highly recommend doing something like that if you ever find yourself in this position. However, do to a series of unfortunate events, I actually injured one shoulder while trying to dance in a non-weight bearing manner. I’ll just let you imagine what happened. So strength training is on hold temporarily, but even when I could do it, it did not provide me the endorphins or the stress relief that a solid cardio routine can offer.

Recap: chair cardio, hand cycle, strength training with bands or free weights while NOT standing. These are the saving grace of my pandemic non-weight bearing exercise life.

I do hope you never find yourself in this position, but if you do, please save this blog for refence.

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