How to Keep Training with an Injured Arm

Q I’m training for a hilly spring marathon, and I broke my wrist two weeks ago riding my bike. My doc has given me the green light to run again, but I’m struggling with how to modify my plan until I get the cast off in 6-8 weeks. I usually strength-train 2-3 times per week and ride my mountain bike twice a week while marathon training. Do you have any tips for maintaining strength and cross-training fitness while I’m healing? – JON


A I’m sorry to hear about your fall and injury, but I’m happy you have the go-ahead from your doc to continue marathon training. While it sounds as if you’re okay running, I’d give yourself the next few weeks to run on predictable surfaces like paved paths or roads versus technical trails, so you reduce the chance of falling. It may take a few runs to get used to running with the cast and comfortable in your stride.

There are plenty of exercises you can do to maintain your strength and cycling fitness while you’re healing. Here is a 6-minute strength-training routine that will kick your butt even though it comes in a mini package. You can perform this workout after cycling, or weave it into a cycling circuit workout where you ride for 3-5 minutes and then perform one of these workouts, alternating riding with strength exercises throughout the ride.


The 6-Minute One-Armed Strength Routine

Perform each exercise for 60 seconds with little recovery in between. As you progress, you can go for a second (12 minutes) or third round (18 minutes).

Alternating Lunge with Core Rotation: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your arms out in front of you with your hands clasped together. Step forward with your right foot and bend through the hip and knee until your thigh is parallel with the floor, rotating your straight arms through your torso and to the right as you’re lunging down. Pause and extend back up, rotating back to the front. Repeat on the other side – step forward with your left foot while rotating your straight arms to the left.

  1. Slow Squats: Standing hip width apart, sit back and bend through your hips and knees until your thighs are parallel with the floor, lowering super slow for 10 seconds. Pause for three seconds, then press through your heels and extend back up for 10 slow seconds. If you don’t fatigue in 60 seconds, add weight by holding onto a med ball or using a barbell.
  2. Crunches on Ball: Lying on a ball, reach your hands towards the ceiling and move through the crunching motion from your core, focusing on moving your ribcage closer to your hips. Slow it down and crunch for five seconds, pause for three seconds, and slowly release back for five seconds. These little buggers can sting in just one short minute (enjoy, Jon).
  3. The Bridge: Lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet on the floor hip width apart and your arms at your sides. Lift your hips off the floor and squeeze your glutes until your hips are in line with your knees and shoulders. Pause, and then slowly release back down to the ground. If this feels easy, try it with one leg lifted 5-8 centimetres off the floor.
  4. Single Leg Stand with Arm Curl and Shoulder Press: Standing on one foot with the other leg bent at 90 degrees, perform an arm curl with your healthy arm with a weight or resistance band and follow through with a shoulder press. Pause at the top and slowly lower the weight down. After 30 seconds, switch your standing leg to build balance and stability.
  5. Wall Chair Sit: Stand with your back against a wall with your feet hip width apart. Walk your feet out in front of you while sliding your back down the wall until your knees are at a 90-degree angle with your knees over your ankles. Hold for 60 fun seconds.

Although it’s not a great idea to get on your bike until you’re 100 per cent, putting your bike on a trainer or riding a stationary indoor bike can be a great alternative until you can get on your bike again. Since you’re training for a hilly marathon, this could be a great time to develop leg strength in the saddle. Here is a great workout you can perform on your stationary bike to keep things interesting and build leg strength for your run.


Hill Climb Cycling Workout:

Warm up riding easy for 10 minutes, keeping your cadence at 90-100 revolutions per minute (rpm).

Repeat 6 times:

2 minutes – Increase the resistance or incline level and ride at lower range of rpms at 50-60. It should feel challenging, but you should be able to keep good cycling form (not moving upper body or hips) while riding in the lower rpm range.

3 minutes – Decrease the resistance or incline level and ride at 90-100 rpms to recover.

Cool down riding easy for five minutes.

These two workouts will not only help maintain your strength and cycling fitness, they will also contribute to your marathon training as well. It’s also important to focus on total body flexibility, as you may alter your stride and develop muscle tension due to the weight of the cast or how you hold your body while it’s on. Do some gentle yoga stretches (squat, child’s pose, prone twist, back bend, side bend, leg prop) to prevent muscle tension and imbalance along the way.

As you build back into your running training, keep in tune with your running form and posture by performing regular checks every mile. It’s best to start back with shorter, easy-effort runs and build gradually back to more mileage and intensity as your body will allow.

Although you’re one arm down, by making a few modifications, you can continue to make progress in your marathon training.


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