I recently broken my hand and had to have surgery. How that happened is a whole other article. I work out every day, and suddenly found my “routine” completely thrown out the window. In the interest of sharing ideas with anyone else finding themselves in this situation, I’ll share what I came up with.
The first two weeks after surgery were the hardest; I had a plaster cast/splint wrapped up in ace bandages that could not be removed. I couldn’t get it wet, and although I had the use of three fingers, holding anything more than a pound was impossible. I wanted to avoid sweating as much as possible, not because I thought it would dissolve the plaster, I just didn’t want it to start to smell.
In the beginning, it was all about doing something, which feels so much better than nothing. Maintaining the mental process of getting up and working out seems almost as important as the physical process. I’d start out on a stationary bike or the elliptical (minus the arms), but at a much slower pace and less resistance than usual. I’d watch TV, and go for about an hour, feeling warm, but not working up much of a sweat. If possible, I’d keep my hand/arm on an Icepack wrapped in a towel, to keep it cool, as it tended to warm up quicker.
I’d do this one day, and then alternate with a resistance workout. I could to my abs routine slow enough not to build up much of a sweat. To do legs, I put the weights I’d normally hold in my left hand in a strong backpack. Wearing the backpack, and holding the other weight in my good hand, I could do squats and work on my calves. I’d then do a couple sets of shoulders, biceps, and triceps and a back exercise or two with my good arm — no reason to get lazy there. I would go through the motions with my other hand, even though there was no weight in it.
After two weeks, the “cast” came off, and I had a removable splint. I still had pins in my hand, so putting any kind of weight in it was a no-no. But the splint was much lighter and washable, so I wasn’t afraid of sweating. I could to a full cardio workout. I started doing push-ups on one elbow, (and moving my good hand in and out to go down), so I’d feel like I was doing something with my chest. To work my shoulder a little, I put weights in a bag, held it in the crook of my elbow, and lifted it up. If I’d had one of those lifting (benches) I suppose I could have done something similar with bags of weights by lying down and lifting up, to work my chest. To do my Bicep and triceps, I pretty much went through the motions with the bad arm, using my other hand to resist the motion. I tried using a three-pound weight to do some bicep/triceps exercises, but the risk (and pain associated with) banging my pins made me wait until they were out.
During this time, I considered joining one of the cheap gyms for a month. There seemed to be so many more opportunities to get creative with the machines and do some hands-free resistance workouts. For example, I could use the machine where you pull in with your elbows to work my chest, and the one where you push up with your arms to work my shoulders. If I had a pull up bar, I could have strapped my elbows in, hung, and pulled up to work my back/triceps.
At four weeks, my pins came out. Wearing the splint, I felt comfortable (although, worth noting, not endorsed by any medical professional!) holding a three-pound weight in my hand. I worked this into my mini arm routine. At six weeks, I was able to hold an eight-pound weight, although I favored my thumb and first two fingers when doing this.
Part of staying sane was seeing this as an opportunity to do things differently and focus on other things- I spent more time working on legs/abs and cardio, and only did things with my hand to maintain some kind of strength until things got back to normal, which they mostly did after about 10 weeks. I had to use a lighter weight in the bad hand for a while, but the “routine” could resume. While it was a bit of a setback, it felt good to “work around” the injury.