Working out with an Injury
As equestrians, it’s not a matter of IF we get hurt but WHEN. We sometimes forget that horses are big creatures with a mind of their own and are often unpredictable, so of course we are going to get hurt. But hopefully not too often. It’s especially hard when those injuries keep you out of the saddle and away from doing your normal barn chores, but you are still relatively able bodied.
For me, my latest injury is a broken hand, more specifically my index knuckle, which as you could imagine was a painful experience. After recovering from surgery that wired my knuckle back together, I started to feel a bit lost within myself. My everyday life normally consists of riding, grooming and managing the stables at home and not being able to ride, not being able to work anywhere near as much as I normally do, really hit me. Which I’m sure most of you could relate with.
As the novelty of sitting at home watching Netflix all day started to wear off, I was still going to be out of action for at least 2 1/2 months, and with the rest of my body completely fine, I decided that I was going to concentrate on my fitness, so that when the time came to finally get back into the saddle I was ready. Here is my journey.
First things first, GET APPROVAL.
I cannot stress this enough, consult your health care professional before you get back into exercising. I was on some heavy pain killers for a few weeks after the operation, which did prevent me from driving as well, and I was advised to wait until I no longer required them to get through the day. Once that passed, I went back to see my surgeon and my physiotherapist again for them the check my hand and make sure it was going to be safe for me to workout. While I did receive the all clear to work out, it was still very strongly advised that I stay away from horses and doing much with them. I had such a severe break that they didn’t want me to be at risk of refracturing, so to the sidelines I stayed. Which then also meant I had an awful lot of time on my hands. Well, hand. Singular.
Figuring out what I can do.
Soon as I arrived home from the doctors, I sat down and went through my TFE Workout Guides and made a list of what I thought I might have been able to do. Some were a definite possibility and a couple that I wanted to try. Knowing that I would be certainly be able to do most of the lower body and some of the core workouts gave a me a bit of motivation after I realised that all the upper body workouts were not going to be on my list. There were some that I would have been able to do one handed but I that was going to leave me more uneven than I was already going to be and it was decided that the best thing to do was to just leave them out of my routine.
Little bit at a time.
TAKE IT EASY. Remember your body is putting a lot of effort into healing, and in my case bones were fusing back together, you will most likely feel like the simple things take a lot more effort right now and that’s fine. Sometimes just showing up and attempting something is better than not going at all, I did feel very inspired by Kaley Cuoco, who managed to get back into the gym with her arm in a sling after shoulder surgery, gave a bit of confidence that I would be able to do it too. My first session at the gym consisted of only 20 mins of cardio on the cross trainer and that was hard enough! It had only been a month since the break, but I couldn’t believe how hard it was to do just a fraction of my normal routine. I just had to remind myself that it is amazing that I felt up to going, let alone actually getting in the gym and doing something. I did have to have a laugh at myself, walking into the gym with a splint on my hand did mean I received quite a few double takes and looks from the other gym goers, I even made a new friend because they just HAD to know what happened, they were impressed by the fact I was even there.
Up next, Strength.
My next challenge was getting some strength work done. Armed with my list of possible workouts from The Fit Equestrian it was time to test out what I was able to do. Before the injury I was doing most of the advanced workouts, but with the time off and the still healing bones I started again with just doing the beginner circuits and figured I will build myself back up from there. As expected, I was able to do majority of the lower body workouts, such as lunges, hip abductions, ice skaters and squats. I then tried the core exercises, V crunches, behind the leg touches, lying leg raises and Russian twists. Again, I was able to get most of them done without too much fuss. Well, I mean I struggled to do them, but I could do them none the less. When I was almost done, I wanted to just try something and to my surprise and utter joy, I discovered that I could hold a low plank! Although I did struggle to hold it for 30 seconds, (why does time pass SO SLOWLY when you’re doing planks?!), the position didn’t hurt my hand. Being able to do the low plank also meant that I was going to be able to perform my favourite core exercise, hip dips. I love them because they work your entire core, plus they’re fun and hurt so good.
Sweet, sweet endorphins.
Following my first workout back, after of course the brief lived moment of “why do I do this to myself”, I was hit with that beautiful happy mix of Endorphins and a great sense of accomplishment. I did it. I got myself to the gym and did a workout, it was so much better than sitting at home watching endless amounts of Netflix. I may have looked a little bit of a hot mess walking out of the gym, sweaty and red faced, but I just couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.
Keep on, keeping on.
Now that I’m back working out, that means I need to stay consistent. I started with just going twice a week, listening to my body it was telling me that twice a week was plenty for now. I then went from twice a week, to three times and so on until I have been going 6 days a week! It sounds excessive, but I actually had very little else to do. I was used to such an active lifestyle, walking at least 10,000 steps a day just doing my job let alone before I did my exercises, going to the gym gave me a sense of purpose. A way to get active again while still obeying my direct orders of staying away from horses.
While still doing my physiotherapy religiously, getting my finger to move like a finger again has been tough and it has reached a plateau in improving the range of movement. On the 27th February 2020, exactly 2 months, 3 weeks and 1 day after I broke my hand. I was given the go ahead to get back on! My surgeon felt confident enough that my risk of refracture was low enough and my physio was happy enough with the movement, although I still have a long way to go before I have full movement, I may not ever get the full range of movement back. So, in his words “Just start living your life with this new finger, let yourself adjust and see what happens.” My first ride back, I didn’t stop smiling the entire time. I was so happy to finally be back where I belonged. I also quietly thanked myself for working so hard in the gym, After my 40 minute ride, I didn’t feel exhausted or sore. Nothing to distract me from the fact that I was finally back in the saddle.
It’s been less than a week since my first ride, only a handful of rides and physically I feel as if I hadn’t missed a day. I can only put it down to getting myself to the gym and doing those workouts that are specially for riders.
Next time you find yourself out with an injury, see what you can do for yourself to prepare for that glorious day when you are finally reunited with your beloved partner in crime.
But seriously, if you need any Netflix recommendations hit me up. I’ve seen everything and give you rave reviews about so many shows and movies. Even the bad ones.
- TFE Sponsored Rider Liz Koob