IT HAPPENS WHEN you least expect it: on a morning jog, playing softball with your co-workers, or, in the case of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, at an airport. A slip, a fall and a couple of X-rays later, you discover you’ve broken a bone in your leg or foot.
Luckily for mankind, bones heal quickly. But unluckily for athletes and active individuals, even a month in a cast or a boot can seem like a death sentence for their exercise routine. But it doesn’t have to be — we got experts to weigh in on how to stay fit and heal fast. (Just check with your doctor first.)
» Know thine enemy: Beware of muscle atrophy! “You want to keep moving,” cautions Jenifer Gamboa, physical therapist and founder of Arlington’s Body Dynamics (5130 Wilson Blvd.; 703-527-9557; Bodydynamicsinc.com). Banish inflammation by elevating and icing the injury. But kickstart your recovery by sitting with an elastic resistance band wrapped around your feet and moving your ankles up and down.
» Get up: According to Megan Brown, physical therapist and founder of Mind the Mat Pilates and Yoga in Del Ray (2214 Mount Vernon Ave.; Mindthemat.com), exercise combats the depression that’s often an injury side-effect. Get your cardio fix with an Upper Body Ergometer (like an exercise bike for your arms), found at most gyms and rehab facilities. And if you’re cast-less, jump in the pool for a full-body, low-impact workout.
» The bigger picture: Elizabeth Wheeler, the physical therapist for the Nationals baseball team, stresses the importance of an integrated rehab approach. Don’t obsess over the injured area. Instead, pay attention to the parts of you that still work. If leg #1 is outta commission, weight train with leg #2. Brown recommends buffing up hip stabilizers with leg lift reps on your side or back.
And try out a Pilates class. “With Pilates,” notes Brown, “there are a lot of exercises done without ever putting your foot down.” Try this powerhouse-building move: Lie on your back with legs straightened in the air at a 45 degree angle, lift up your head and pump your arms up and down at your sides for 30 seconds at a time.
» Do the right thing: Cigarettes and alcohol in excess slow healing. Give your body what it needs to heal bones: a tall glass of milk, says Wheeler. Ingest at least 1,000 mg of calcium per day. If you’re lactose intolerant, spring for some supplements. And make sure to treat yourself to some Omega 3 fatty acids (e.g. walnuts & fish) to help bring down swelling at the injury site.
» Good company: Even the pros feel anxiety about recuperating. “But when you’re around other athletes in the clubhouse, in the gym, you’re around a lot more motivation,” says Wheeler. Surround yourself with active people at the gym or just add the whole “Rocky” series to your Netflix queue.
» Don’t worry, be happy: The most critical muscles of all to your recovery are the ones responsible for making you smile. The key to healing is positive thinking, says Gamboa, who reminds that a broken bone is not forever. “Tap into every support network you have,” advises Brown. And don’t forget to laugh – but never at people falling, for that is how bones break.
Held at Tysons Sport & Health, 8250 Greensboro Drive, McLean, Va.; Wed. at 7 a.m., Thu. at 7 p.m., Sat. at 11 a.m.
Written by Express contributor Maya Silver