No Excuses Fitness: Exercising with a Cast

using the knee scooter

As I continue to write my book No Excuses Fitness, I have included my experience with exercise and recovery from injury and surgery in this post.

Two years ago, while out walking my dogs, I fell and fractured my right hand. I was lucky only to have to wear a wrist brace so I could still use my fingers, but the pain and awkwardness of the brace hindered most of my activities and personal care.

Consistently engaging in leisure-time physical activity makes up part of my identity. The idea of not being able to walk, swim, go to the gym or ride my bike sets up high levels of anxiety within me. Not only do I want to maintain my fitness level, but I also want to keep weight off.

I admit I am a little addicted to exercise and its effects on weight loss, among other benefits. So of course, I went to the gym three days after I broke my hand. I figured I could still walk on the treadmill or use the elliptical since my legs were fine. I did not want to lose the progress I had made in my fitness journey.

After only 15 minutes on the elliptical, and not engaging my right hand, I was pouring sweat and feeling strange. I later shared this news with my daughter, an avid, 30-something Cross-Fitter, who admonished me for not resting. Our bodies use a LOT of energy to heal even a minor fracture. Feeling much better after a week, I went back to the gym and engaged in my usual workouts but in shorter durations. I was also able to carefully walk the dogs again, using my left hand to hold the leashes.

Two years later, my mindset toward physical activity hasn’t changed much. When I elected to have bunion surgery on my left foot in early June, I thought I went in with my eyes wide open. Having never experienced firsthand the mobility issues of using crutches or a knee scooter, I assumed I could gracefully and patiently handle the whole process of recovering from surgery.

It has been quite a journey. “Gracefully and patiently” are distant ideals.

As each day went by, I gradually got more energy. Most physical activities had to be done in the morning, as my foot would typically swell in mid-afternoon. This is the time when I would elevate my feet on my La-Z-Boy!

Here is a look at a week in my life post-surgery. Please note that light activity was approved by my doctor during my third week when the real cast was placed.

Walking the Dogs

With assistance, I found I could get my knee scooter outside, while someone wrangled the dogs. My small dog, Aero, walks well and I could attach his leash to the scooter handlebars, while someone walked alongside with Brodie. I went from walking 15 minutes to over 45 minutes, 2-3 days a week!

I keep my phone with me in case of photo ops!

sunflowers surrounded by blue
Sunflowers are seen on a walk around my neighborhood

Stationary Bike

I bought a used stationary bike I keep on the backyard deck, and 2-3 times a week I cycle for 15-20 minutes. The casted foot occasionally slips a little while pedaling, but most of the work is done with my right foot.

view from exercise bike
At least the view is nice!

Calisthenics, Strength Training, and Stretching

I keep a resistance band in my scooter basket. When the mood strikes, I do some simple resistance exercises for about 10 minutes. I also lie on the floor and gently work my abs and legs. Due to the cast and inactivity, my left thigh is now an inch smaller around than my right thigh! With my ankle immobilized within the cast, I know I have some work to do once it’s off.

Short Errands to the Store

Once the fourth week arrived, I was able to drive to nearby stores to run errands. Hubby showed me how to place the scooter in the back of my SUV, which takes some maneuvering. It’s lightweight, so it is easy to lift in and out of the car. Just doing this much and rolling around the grocery store takes energy and time. I discovered last week I can pull a cart with one hand while riding the scooter, but I save the big trips for hubby.

Backyard Gardening

Plumeria sprouting

To get into my backyard, I need to use the crutches. Our deck has three steps into the backyard, so the scooter does not work. My plumerias and sunflowers need water daily while the rest of the plants and flowers need water every other day in our Northern California 90+ degree heat. Some gardening projects will have to wait until I am back on both feet.

My two proudest achievements this summer! My first pink plumeria bloomed yesterday, a huge surprise since it can take up to three years for cuttings to bloom.

My first plumeria
First plumeria

Last year I planted sunflowers to photograph and enjoy. Once I saw this type, a Tall Sungold, aka Teddy Bear, I just had to have one. A blogger friend sent me some of his seeds from his harvest!

Close-up of TeddyBear, aka Tall Sungold

I take photos of the sunflowers and plumeria almost every day. Have you ever tried to hold a cell phone with two fingers while using crutches? I knew I should have bought one of those Velcro pouches made for crutches while I was at the medical supply store in San Diego!

Getting Back to Normal

Looking forward to when the cast comes off in a few days, I may end up wearing a walking boot for a while longer, which is OK since I can remove it. From this point, I plan to swim and do some aqua aerobics and water walking at the gym swimming pool, along with using the elliptical again. I’m also looking forward to my Friday or Saturday morning yoga classes too!

The key is to resume physical activity gradually. Complete recovery from bunion surgery can take up to one year, due to mild residual pain and swelling!

I’m excited about getting back to the delta for our summer weekends where I can kayak and ease into stand-up paddling’ but I think I will put off windsurfing until next season!

I know that my recovery will be slow, but I have an entire month before I’m back in the classroom.

Was it worth it? I’ll let you know in a few weeks! Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the scooter ride with me today.

This post is inspired in part by Restless Jo’s Monday Walk, How to Exercise with A Cast and Becky B’s Blue July Squares.

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