Winter is here. Black ice, shoveling snow, and other winter hazards are on the annual mission to sideline you. Exercise classes, new years resolutions, and gym equipment used inappropriately are also still around. So is just plain bad luck, if you’re like me. I was recently diagnosed with 2 stress fractures and sidelined to no weight bearing activity for 8-12 weeks.

Disclaimer: This isn’t medical advice. Your injuries may be different, so what works for one person may not work for you, or it could make things worse. Always check with your doctor before starting any fitness program.

Reducing my fitness plan is not an option. Not with a wedding in 7 months and with all of the progress I’ve made in falling back in love with fitness after the most hectic year of my life.

What on earth was I going to do?

Let my mistakes be helpful for the rest of you sidelined with a lower limb injury. Here are some tips for how to keep fit with your injury:

Tip 1: Try something new (or dust off something old)

I hadn’t done mat Pilates in years. After falling in love with HIIT, mat Pilates just didn’t do it for me anymore with it’s mellow pace and repetitive flow. Insert my fractured tibia. Mat Pilates now sounds like a savior!

Other options include seated Yoga, barre class techniques (about half the class is seated), and sit & be fit videos. Try looking up videos on YouTube or on demand if you have cable television.

Tip 2: Figure out what equipment you can use, or how to use equipment in a different way.

Exercise bands are a great option for an immobile person. Find a firm place to anchor them (a treadmill pole or Cybex works great) and you will find seated cardio (or you can try kneeling if your injury allows it). Try doing Tabata or HIIT with the bands for a cardio burst (see below for a routine).

Other great pieces of equipment are a quality yoga/ Pilates mat to cushion you, Therabands, hand weights, weight balls, a weight bench, an arm bike… there are many more options to keep up your workout than it first appears. Think carefully as you hobble around your gym and get creative.

Tip 3: Find a friend.

Just as you will need help with most tasks now that you are hobbling about, don’t be afraid to ask your support network if they want to work out with you. First, it is safer for you to have someone help set up equipment since you are already injured. Second, another pair of eyes means double the creativity in creating fun, exciting ground-bound movements for you. As I was complaining about not being able to do HIIT at a dinner party, a good friend of mine exclaimed, “I love Pilates! I’ll workout with you!” Problem solved plus the accountability of meeting a friend means you will stick to your exercise promise = bonus!

Here are 2 60+ minute (approx) routines I have composed to get you started on your seated fitness journey:

Routine 1: Core Power

Equipment needed: mat, hand weights (5 lbs or higher)

Warm Up: In a seated position, do 1 minute of the following 5 exercises:

  • Weightless lat pull downs
  • Alternating punches
  • Alternating uppercuts
  • Side reaches
  • Seated windmills (sit with legs in a v shape and alternate touching toes)

Repeat moves 1-5 for a 2nd round.

Move onto 1 minute each of the following exercises:

  • Crunches
  • Sidelying leg lifts (right)
  • Sidelying leg lifts (left)
  • Bicycle crunches
  • Clamshells (right; lie on side in fetal position; rotate from hip for knee to go to ceiling- so that it looks like a clamshell- while keeping feet together; you should feel this in your hip)
  • Clamshells (left)
  • Reverse crunches (any style)
  • Pilates roll ups (lay outstretched on floor, roll up slowly until you fold over your legs and touch toes, slowly roll back down)
  • Seated Russian twists
  • Cobras (lay face down and press into a Cobra position with elbows tight to body; continue to lower up and down slowly)
  • Pilates Swimmers (lay face down; outstretch all 4 limbs and “swim”, lifting and lowering opposite arms and legs as rapidly as comfortable)
  • Kneeling push ups
  • Kneeling plank

Repeat moves 1-13 for a 2nd round.

Complete 5 rounds of the following moves for time (start laying on back):

  • 10 bench presses with handweights
  • 10 chest flys with handweights
  • 10 Pilates roll ups (or crunches; optional: keep handweights)
  • (now on knees) 10 lateral raises with handweights
  • 10 woodchops (hold both weights, move them diagonal across body from one hip to opposite overhead)
  • 10 woodchops on other side

Routine 2: Bands Rule

Equipment needed: mat, exercise band(s)

Warm Up: In a seated position, do 1 minute of the following 5 exercises:

  • Weightless lat pull downs
  • Alternating punches
  • Alternating uppercuts
  • Side reaches
  • Seated windmills (sit with legs in a v shape and alternate touching toes)

Repeat moves 1-5 for a 2nd round.

For each exercise below, do 3 sets of each. Perform each exercise for 45 seconds, rest for 15 seconds, and then perform then 2nd exercise in the same way (each set taking 6 minutes total).

  • Reverse fly* on band & crunches
  • Chest press (face away from the band)* & elbow planks
  • “X”* & scissors (Face towards band for “X”; pull band overhead on diagonal; for scissors: lay on back and alternate leg lifts using abdominals)
  • Hands & knees tricep extension & hollow rock
  • Hands & knees 1 arm pull (alternate arms in exchange of core move)
  • Rows* & V-sit hold
  • Bicep curls* & bicycle crunches

All exercises with a “*” can be done either on knees or in a seated position.

Spend 5-10 minutes stretching.

There you have it, you can truly sit & be fit! Keeping active in any way possible will speed up your recovery, keep your spirits up, and make your comeback that much stronger when you are well again.

Christy Lyons

Christy Lyons, M.A., PHR, is a former corporate wellness company owner & freelance Yoga, Pilates, and barre/toning instructor. As an E-RYT, she has been teaching yoga since 2007 and has also run 2 teacher training programs. She is an NASM-CPT and specialized in working with clients with autoimmune diseases, spinal injuries, and other unique cases. After selling her business in 2013, Christy... Read More

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