What's new

Out for 3-4 months with a leg injury - how to maintain fitness?


Jun 27, 2010
Hello chaps,

I came off my brand new Trek 2.1 during the daily lunchtime ride on the 7th of this month. It had been raining slightly and I slipped on some metal grating (drain covers?). In the past, I've either been able to control the bike and keep riding, or I come off and graze my hands and ankles.

However on this occasion, for whatever reason, my shoe didn't disengage from the pedal correctly, so as my body came off, my foot stayed with the bike. X-rayed at the hospital, I was told that I had torn the ATFL (anterior talofibular ligament) in my right foot, and that it would take some time to heal.

A plaster cast was immediately placed over my right leg to keep the ankle at 90 degrees (the best position for the ligament to heal). This came off on Monday (26th), and I have been wearing an ankle support ever since.

I am able to walk short distances (now without crutches), but running, riding, swimming, yoga, and pretty much anything that flexes the ankle joint is strictly discouraged. The doctor has cited a further three months for the ligament to heal.

I'm usually quite an active person, cycling 30km Mon-Fri (longer at the weekend, obviously), practising yoga 4-5 times a week, and an hour or so of floor exercise each day after work. I'm really struggling to cope with the lack of mobility - spending all day in the office breathing air conditioning, when I want to be outside in the fresh(ish) air, enjoying the summertime from my saddle.

Anyway, after that background introduction, I would like to ask if any other TokyoCycle members have experienced similar periods of immobility in their life, how they coped mentally with the dramatic lifestyle change (especially during the summer months), and how they managed to maintain a degree of health and fitness while unable to ride, run, swim, or do most other forms of exercise?

Any suggestions would be gratefully received.

SWIM with the ankle brace on, I broke my knee several years back so was in the same situation. Put a float between your legs and clap it with the thighs then just use your arms to drive you forward, amazing cardio work out.

Some pools may even have the proper float for this exercise.

Also if you have a turbo training you can clip in and ride one legged, you will need to do some excerises to counter the effects once the ankle heels, but as it is your ankle on your dominate leg that you injured this could be the perfect opportunity to balance out the muscles.

Just makes sure that you have a low stool to rest the injured leg on so you don't roll the hips as you pedal. (Bath stools are perfect for this)
FarEast, many thanks for your useful suggestions.

I do like the idea of swimming with the ankle support on, but will have to seek the doctor's approval just in case. Isolating my lower body and just working on my upper body should work though.

I do not have a turbo trainer, but this was something I was considering as an alternative to joining a gym and using their cycling machines.

By the way, how can you tell that the injured right ankle is the dominant leg?

Thanks again,
You don't need a doctors ok to swim if you're not using the legs to drive you forward. This swimming exercise is 100% upper body work out. The legs just trail behind you.

Ok when you kick a ball what leg do you kick with? If its your right leg you are right leg dominant.
Yes, I agree, upper-body swimming should be fine, thanks again for the suggestion.

I am indeed right footed (I kick a football with my right foot), however I was wondering how you could ascertain that from my initial description. Is it typical for the dominant foot/leg to become sprained in such accidents?

Because Im guessing that you also unclip with your left leg first when disengaing from your pedals and Engage the right first when geting on the bike?

I've been riding and racing for pretty much 29 years and have had some pretty serious crashes and non serious crashes in my time as well as team mates and riding buddies...... the non dominant leg always seems to be the one that is disengaged first in a accident and probably has something to do with muscle memory.
I swim regularly with two floats (no kicking), not quite enough bouyancy with one. They're kind of an hourglass or figure 8 shape, very comfortable. One side is a little fatter than the other, point it down for more lift. It's also possible to use a kickboard in a pinch. Skip the regular turns at each end, just swim to the end, grab an extra breath, and push off with your good foot.

Add a pair of these, too: http://jspowersports.com/img/wetsuits/powerpaddleglove.jpg
paddle gloves are great.... also good for resistance training when doing strides in the pool.
I had the same situation after knee injuries from running. I found it very difficult mentally not to be active. In addition my weight was steadily going up.

I agree with the swimming with a pull buoy. You can place it between your thighs just above the knees and strap your legs together. This will pretty much prevent your ankles from moving and you can focus on the upper body.

Hope you have a quick recovery.
Thank you once again for the replies chaps.

The cast has been off for almost two weeks now, and I have been using the ankle support strapping more or less 24 hours a day (with the exception of showering).

I am able to walk a little more naturally now, however am weary that the whole ankle area is still very weak - especially without the ankle strapping.

Last Saturday I managed to find a rusty old mama-chari in the bike shed beside my apartment. I pumped up the tyres and experimented with different riding methods. I tried using the left (fit) leg to pedal and just the heel of the right (injured) foot to turn the pedal. The ankle strapping was keeping my right ankle at 90 degrees, and I was cautious to keep the ankle from shifting from side to side.

However this was still too painful, so instead I resorted to placing the resting the injured foot on the chain guard, then using the left foot to push myself along. It was slow and ungainly, but faster than walking and allowed me to regain a degree of independence by buying my own food shopping again (I'm raw-food vegetarian, so need a regular source of fresh fruit and vegetables).

Feeling confident, I then pushed myself around the area to check out the closest pool. I explained to the attendant my plans to swim using floats and my upper body strength, he seemed in agreement, but recommended that I seek approval from my doctor beforehand.

On the way back I also popped into a local gym to check-out their facilities. As a cyclist, and someone who enjoys being in the fresh air, the thought of exercising indoors has always seemed a little alien to me. Now however, my attitude has obviously changed. Joining the gym appeals as it would obviously allow me to use the pool, while the weights machine should provide an opportunity to work my leg muscles (provided I do not stress the ankle joint). Anyway, I took a load of information sheets away, and told the chap I'd think a little more about joining and perhaps return the following week for a day trial session.

Throughout the week I started using the mamma-chari more and more, until I was able to cycle with both feet (keeping the right foot at 90 degrees) to the office and back. However riding the chari really stressed my knees - the riding position is too low, despite the seat being raised to the maximum position. Man, why are these terrible bikes still so popular in this country?

This morning I decided to put my Trek back together (well just the reattach the wheels). It had been sitting in my apartment since the accident, placed upside-down, and was beginning to look a little dusty. Reattaching the wheels, I had a close look around the bike and everything seems to be fine. The rear is a little buckled (presumably from the accident), but still ridable. I swapped the cleeted pedals for an old set of standard pedals I had lying around, pumped up the tyres, then took it onto my balcony and gave it a good wash with the hose. Man, is a nice looking bike...and boy do I want to ride it again!

I'm trying to restrain myself here. I live on the third floor so would have to carry the bike down a couple of flights of stairs. A road bike is obviously more difficult to ride than a chari, however I have lowered the seat post and swapped the pedals, so provided I take it really slowly, it should be okay just to get to and from the shops/office on, right?

Sorry for this somewhat rambling thread. I just thought I'd update you all on my current progress. I think I'll do some floor exercises, take a shower, then have another think about riding the Trek.

Well, I went for a quick spin around the block (if you can call 14km/h quick...), but it felt rather awkward. Even in it's lowest position, the seat post is still too high. Usually not a problem with two healthy legs and full ankle mobility to stretch, but that's obviously not the case. Setting off was a little challenging (I usually push-off with my right), however once I was up and running, riding felt reasonably okay. The worrying part was stopping in a hurry. I tested myself a few times, but didn't feel confident.

The mama-chari still feels much safer, so I'll hold out on the Trek for another couple of weeks, wait for the ankle to heal a little more, then reassess the situation.

Be patient and careful.

btw, here in town there's a foreigner that I see now and then zooming around on his bike. I've never met him, so I don't know what happened, but he's only got one arm.
Top Bottom