Ankle sprains are an incredibly common injury, but that doesn't make them any less pleasant. Whether you’re an athlete or an avid gym-goer, it’s easy to feel that your progress has been put on hold when you’re diagnosed with an ankle sprain.
Contrary to what you might think, though, having a sprained ankle doesn’t mean you have to be completely sidelined. There are stabilizing braces and other ways to manage sprains that you can utilize to stay active and keep exercising while still protecting your ankle and helping it to heal.
Listed below are five tips to help you stick with an exercise routine without hindering your ankle’s ability to heal.
1. Focus on Other Body Parts
You may not be able to work your legs while you’re dealing with an ankle sprain, but that doesn’t mean you have to be totally sedentary, either. You have more body parts than just your legs, after all!
Give your legs a rest while your ankle heals and focus on strengthening your arms, back, chest, and core. Sure, you’ll probably lose some strength and muscle mass in your legs, but isn’t that better than losing strength and muscle mass throughout your entire body?
Depending on the severity of your injury, you don’t even have to completely swear off lower body exercises. You could try switching from squats and deadlifts to exercises that you can do while sitting, such as hamstring curls and leg extensions.
2. Try a New Form of Cardio
Many people bemoan ankle sprains because they assume that they won’t be able to do any kind of cardiovascular exercise while they’re ankle heals. This couldn’t be further from the truth, though.
There are tons of cardio options that don’t require you to put pressure on your ankle. Some good options to try out include:
- Riding a stationary bike (just avoid standing up to pedal, of course)
- Swimming (just make sure your ankle is supported and avoid vigorous kicking or pushing off the wall with the injured ankle)
- Arm cycling (this is a good option if you need to give your lower body a total break)
- Rowing (another good option that will definitely get your heart pumping)
3. Wear a Brace
Depending on the severity of your ankle sprain, you may be able to get away with doing some light lower body work as long as your ankle is supported properly.
Wearing a high-quality ankle brace will help stabilize the joint and minimize pain and swelling while you work out. Just be sure not to overdo it.
Remember, just because you can do something, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should, at least not on a regular basis. Give working out with a brace a try, but, if it doesn’t feel good, back off and go back to working other body parts instead.
4. Use Your Downtime for Resting and Icing
When you’re not working out, be sure to take advantage of the downtime and ice and rest your ankle. It usually takes between two and six weeks for a sprain to fully heal, but you can expedite the process by resting as much as you can and applying ice in ten-minute increments every hour.
Wrapping your ankle up with a brace or compression bandage is also beneficial, as is keeping it elevated above your heart whenever you can.
5. Listen to Your Body
Finally, make sure you’re truly listening to your body. As an active individual, it can be hard to rest and let yourself recover. But, if you push yourself beyond what your body can handle, you’re going to end up with a worse injury, which means you’ll end up needing to take more time off to let it fully recover.
Focus on what you can do and, if something doesn’t feel right in the gym or at home, back off and do something else.
An ankle sprain isn’t the end of the world -- nor does it signal the end of your gym or sports training. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be able to exercise safely without putting your ankle at risk for a more severe injury.