As an injured athlete (if I may call myself that), I still want to keep in shape. While I can’t participate in my favorite, cardiovascular activities, I can do other things to make sure I don’t lose all my muscle or fitness. Here are a few of the things I’ve been doing to keep it up!
You love to hate them but they are the best for keeping your core in check. As I’ve learned, the core pretty much the essential strengthening exercise I need to do. When your core is tight and muscular, it takes the pressure off everything else — and especially off a disc that has slid into the wrong place. I do two 1+ minute planks every other day (and am going to increase soon!)
Back Strengthening Exercises
Hip raises are the main one I’ve been doing. You can add leg extensions — where you raise one leg at a time while in the hip raise — to make it harder. If you are doing this correctly, you’ll feel it, and overtime it’s going to give muscle to take pressure off the disc and help your body get back to normal.
I bought my big ball three years ago when I first had this back issue. It’s large and in the way but a necessary tool to keep things up. I’ve been using it mostly for situps to ease tension on the back from normal sit ups. I also lay on my stomach and raise right arm/left leg and vice versa for balance and core toning.
Weightlifting with free weights
You can always use your body weight to work out but having a good set of free weights is really helpful to me. Since I’m not a member of a gym right now and my little apartment gym doesn’t have a full set, I’ve been using mine in my living room. Make sure you aren’t doing anything that could put much pressure on your back but focus on isolated arm muscles and keep your core tight. I get most of my exercises from magazines like Shape, Self and Women’s Fitness. Each month, they have new ones to try!
Lunges (no weight)
While I’ve noticed that squats put pressure on my back, lunges don’t. Maybe that’s just me but it works. A good rep scheme to try is the “Around the World” lunge sequences. Basically, you do 10-20 lunges on each leg at every angle, which pans out to 5 angles each leg. This way you are really work all the leg muscles in every position.
The safest cardio (aside from swimming) to do with an injured back is the recumbent bike. Not my favorite thing in the world but if you do intervals, choose hills, change speeds and keep it interesting, you can actually get an amazing workout. Personally I hate being on it for more than 10-15 minutes at a time so I usually do two rounds with other work in between to get all my time in.
Ahh, the world’s most under-rated exercise. I don’t love it because after running, it seems like it takes so long to go any distance at all. However, you can do it and keep yourself in shape. Lately, I’ve been pushing major incline on the treadmill, walking the stairs at work and keeping the speed up. Pass the time by reading a magazine but don’t let that slow you down. Read with focus (need tips?) and you’ll get through 3-4 miles in no time.
Stretching, stretching, stretching
Stretching may be the most important of all. If you are like me, your body is extremely tight, which adds to the pressure on your back and your disc that may be out of place. My hamstrings are so tight and stretching them well at least once a day is essential. The main exercise I focus on is the stretch with the belt as seen below. I also do the triangle stretch where you pull your heel into your knee like a triangle and just sit in stretch. Stretching cab be a pain but you’ve gotta put the time into it.