Road to Recovery: Alternative Ways to Stay Fit While Nursing an Ankle Injury
Tough times don't last. Tough people do.
As runners, we're prone to injuries. This increases more as we vary our terrain. Roads can have uneven pavements, a misplaced twig, and trails are a beast of their own.
Take my case for example. Two months ago, I twisted my ankle. I was running my usual evening route and, not noticing the crack on the sidewalk, found myself sprawled on the grass with a bloody knee and cringing in pain while grabbing my left leg. The first thought that went through my head was, "How soon can I run again? What about my training?"
Twisting an ankle may seem like a small injury but they can seriously set back training by weeks or even months. Even now, since that incident, my left ankle hasn't been 100 percent.
If that sounds like a nightmare, it doesn't have to be. You can still focus on getting back your ankle strength and mobility while also making sure you don't fall behind on training. So what can you do?
Below are some of the things I've personally done to rehabilitate and strengthen my ankles.
(Note: The suggestions below are for those with not too serious ankle injuries or those who have gained some mobility and strength to their ankles to be able to perform activities. As always, please consult your physician.)
Swimming was one of those things I always wanted to do to cross-train with. In a way, the injury was a blessing in disguise because that forced me to seriously consider swimming. If you haven't added it in your cross-training repertoire, now's the time to do so. Swimming is great for runners because it helps increase endurance and stamina. A swim session gives our legs a break and is great for recovery when done in cooler waters.
Since swimming requires movement that's very different from running, it's an opportunity to work muscle groups that we don't get to work on during our runs. Because of this, swimming is not only great for cross-training but helps runners avoid injuries in the long term. In fact, my first run after a month of swimming helped me break some PBs!
For runners, it's important that we keep our limbs flexible. This allows for easier running thanks to the joint's wider range of movements. Nursing an injury is a perfect time to focus on this aspect of our training. Yoga is great at not only increasing flexibility but also in building strength, balance and overall mental state.
Runners are usually tight around the hips and hamstrings so focusing on lower body poses are a good start. Yoga can also help in stretching out tight ankles. I personally find Downward Dog, Tree Pose, Warriors 1 and 2, Triangle, and the more advanced Lotus Pose as all great poses for the ankles.
3. Balance Board
Increasing proprioception to prevent injuries is a good way to strengthen ankles but also to make sure it does not happen again. Ankle wobble boards are a great start to proprioception training but the fun begins when you level-up to balance boards. I personally love it because it's great training for board sports such as surfing, skateboarding, and stand up paddle-boarding.
Balance boards look like smaller versions of snowboards and will usually come with a cylindrical tube to place underneath. As you can tell, the goal is to balance the board on this tube using your entire body. It's a great workout, not to mention fun, but also helps improve your balance overall.
What other activities have you tried to help in strengthening your ankles? What activities are great for nursing ankle injuries? Tell us in the comments!