You work out every day. You’ve gained strength and muscle definition, and you’re in the best cardiovascular shape of your life. Then it happens. You get a lower body injury. Your doctor says you have to stop running and doing other forms of high-impact exercise that could make it worse. You worry that you’ll lose all of your cardiovascular gains and put on weight.
Fortunately, there are ways to get an effective cardio workout that’ll keep you in shape until you’re “back on your feet.” Even though cardiovascular fitness decreases somewhat after a few weeks of no training, you can maintain your cardiovascular fitness in other ways. Here are some ways to workout with an injury.
Swim or Run in Deep Water
Swimming is the obvious choice if you’re injured, but deep-water running is a better option if running is your main form of cardiovascular exercise. Studies show that runners who run in deep water maintain their cardiovascular fitness. Not only does it work your cardiovascular system, water running engages your core and lower body muscles.
To run in deep water, strap on a buoyancy or flotation device if you’re just starting out. These devices keep you upright in the water until you’re used to water running. Once you’re in water deep enough that you can’t touch the bottom, start jogging the same way you do outdoors, using good form. Once you’re comfortable with the added resistance of running in water, add higher intensity intervals for more challenge and variety.
When running in deep water, expect your heart rate to be decreased by about 10% for the same level of exertion. The pressure of the water against your body increases stroke volume, the amount of blood your heart pumps with each beat, so your heart beats slower during exercise.
Upper Body Cycling
Some gyms have upper body cycling machines called Krankcycles. These machines are designed for you to pedal with your arms rather than your legs. With these cycles, you can get a cardiovascular workout without using your lower body. Despite the fact that you’re using smaller upper body muscles, the makers of the Krankcycle claim you can burn between 9 and 13 calories per minute. Some gyms even offer “Krank” classes, similar to spin classes.
Use a Rowing Machine
You may be able to use a rowing machine, depending upon your injury. Most gyms have one of these machines, and there’s usually not a wait to use one since most people are spending their time on the treadmill and elliptical machines. With a rowing machine, you get a cardiovascular workout and burn calories while engaging your upper body muscles and core. Rowing is a good way to add variety to a cardiovascular workout even when you’re not injured.
Workouts with an Injury: Other Options
Depending upon the type of injury you have, you may still be able to work out on a stationary bike or elliptical machine. These are both low impact forms of exercise, and you can increase the resistance and do intervals to challenge your cardiovascularsystem more. Talk to your doctor before jumping on a bike or elliptical machine if you’re injured.
The Bottom Line?
When you’re injured, you can still get a cardiovascular workout, but don’t do any activity that aggravates the pain, or you could be out of commission longer. To prevent future injuries, cross-train more, and gradually increase the volume and intensity of your training.
References: Krankcycle.com. “FAQ” Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1997 May;29(5):694-9.