What to do When You Cannot do Normal?

Swimming backstroke.

Over the past month we have had a few members of our local workout group miss workouts for a variety of reasons.  Illness, wisdom teeth pulled, and PRK laser eye surgery were some of the reasons.  These are legitimate reasons to miss workouts, but you can still do something to help yourself with other aspects of fitness and health before you return to your routine. 

Sleep = Recovery

As you know, the workout is not what makes your stronger, it’s the recovery.  On days, or an entire week, of limited to non-fitness activity, focusing on sleep should be your priority. The Importance of Sleep cannot be stressed enough, especially if you are in or training for high stress professions such as military, police, special ops, or fire fighter. Sleep is our number one natural recovery mechanism, and helps us to not only recover from hard physical activity and stressful work days, but deal with illness and medical procedures. So, get your sleep.  Limit sleep to no longer than 10-12 hours a night and get up and move if you can. Even if all you can do is sit in a chair, get out of the bed. This will help with not disrupting your sleep the following night.

Move if You Can:

If you can do something – do it. If you are ill, your ability to exercise will be limited. Even walking may be challenging, but stretching and doing some mobility work is not out of the question. A simple light stretch of the back, hips, and hamstrings can even be done in bed or while sitting in a chair.

If you can move around, get on the floor and go through and many joint, limb, and core stretches as you can think of. If you need some ideas, go to Youtube and look for some mobility videos for the entire body or certain body parts (especially if you are limited to mobility due to broken limb bone, etc).

If you can spend 30-45 minutes of your recovery day doing some form of mobility work, you will enjoy feeling great afterwards.

Mobility Videos

Non – Impact Options:

Sometimes an injury prevents you from running or rucking, but you may still be able to do cardio workouts even if they’re biking, rowing, elliptical gliding, or swimming. You can do many different style workouts with these events. If you do not normally use these workouts, here are some ideas for you:

Bike, elliptical, rowing – Tabata Intervals require you to do 20 seconds full speed sprints, then 10 seconds easy recovery speed, and repeat for 5-7 minutes. Try Tabata intervals for 7 minutes, then do a three minute moderate pace recovery speed for a total of 10 minutes. Repeat the 10 minute set three to four times for a 30-40 minute workout.

Swimming – you may have to limit swimming with fins depending on the injury. Treading water, aqua jogging, or just swimming laps until you have to rest is a great way to get some cardio if you have a leg injury. Now if you are normally used to swimming but get PRK surgery, you will have to replace your normal swim workout since you cannot be in the water for two weeks following any eye surgery.  The above nonimpact options are great replacements for swimming.  Don’t stop moving just because you cannot run or swim. Usually you can do one or the other!

Stay Hydrated and Well Fed:

It is real easy to sleep so much that you miss out on normal fluid and nutritious food intake. If there ever is a time to eat healthy, it is now. Drinking water with electrolytes regularly through the day will cause you to get up more often and use the bathroom, but staying on top of your hydration will help you feel normal (less sluggish, headaches, body aches, etc.).  While you are up, move.  Take advantage of the time up and about and stretch at the very least.

After your convalescence is over, if you can say you ate, drank, stretched, slept well and did something physical, you will not feel like you missed out on so much when you start up your normal workouts again.

Stew Smith works as a presenter / editorial board with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).  There are also over 800 articles on Military.com Fitness Forum focusing on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.

Latest Fitness Books: Navy SEAL Weight Training and Tactical Fitness

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