Exercising after foot surgery…. it can be done!

thinking of skating 2Exercising was something I use to do long before having kids and in fact when I was much younger.  After having children (7 actually), exercising was a thing of the past and mainly due to timing and a totally different lifestyle – however don’t feel bad, sometimes it’s not possible to exercise.

I use to do a variety of sports including netball from the ages of 8 to 18 years.  I played casual tennis, roller skated, bush walked and even did ballroom dancing. All of these sports I had to give up and especially after having my Triple Arthodesis operation in 2002.  

From that moment on, the thought of ever exercising or doing sports had possibly gone forever. In my mind I thought my ankle would not allow me to function like I use to “ok, I will have to learn to walk again, but forget anything else”….  While in some instances this is the case, there are however other alternative exercises I can do with my ankle, which I will explain further down the page.



For those who don’t know my history, you can find out about it here (read from the bottom up), however firstly I will list some simple things I find difficult to do with my ankle that most people take for granted:

Walking – I can walk with ease on a level flat surface e.g sealed roads, concrete paths, dirt paths, however I really struggle if the path or ground is coarse, rocky, has roots, boulders and crevices (a bush walking track) or is muddy, unstable or even has a HUGE incline or decline.  

Bush walking for me is rare these days as I am walking into unknown territory.  There have been times where I have started out with the family thinking it was ‘level and safe’ to then having them wait for me lagging behind or being so crippled by the end of it, that I can barely walk the rest of the way and my husband literally has to lead me like a child and even support my weight.  Bush walking is not worth the hassle and I know to either wait at the car or stay behind while the family enjoy their walking adventure.

As for the steep inclines or declines ~ HILLS, SLOPES, or MOUNTAINS, I must be really careful.  Where I live, my husband and I have recently taken up walking.  We live in a small rural area where our roads are dirt, gravel and unsealed. Most of the paths where we walk are fine, however there are parts of our circuit which change from tar sealed roads to dirt, gravel, bark and even grass.  The walk is over 6 kms with the last stretch having a decline then a much larger incline.  

Top of hill (first decline),

The first time I did this walk I slipped down the first decline (backwards) as I was not sure how to balance myself and luckily I injured and grazed the palms of my hands (imagine stones and glass inside) and not my ankle.   

The problem is my lower tendon (the Achilles, which also underwent surgery) and the fact that I have very little movement in my left foot, I just simply can not walk casually down a slope with ease and have to rely on my husband for support (if he is on hand).  

On this particular walk, I have however learnt to bend the knees more, squat a little while leaning backwards slightly and taking an easy pace down hill (although, I must look like a complete idiot or appear as if I’ve been on horse back all day and doing that type of long-time in the saddle walk).  

Walking down the slope (first decline). Gravel rocks makes it slippery and of course I am a long way behind.  Normally my husband walks with me however on this particular day the boys came on their bikes!

The uphill climb is a little easier to manage with me ankle, however it requires more effort and again instead of using my ankles, the strength comes from the knees and thighs.  This incline is hard work and by the time I am only 4-5 metres from the top, my upper legs are normally killing me, however this type of exercise is a fantastic workout for those thighs!

big hill


Another surface I find difficult to walk on is the beach or sand. This is near impossible and puts a great deal of strain on my ankle as I simply can not balance or walk without possibly twisting or falling on my ankle.  Walking on the sand is however a great exercise and requires more exertion than walking on a hard surface. Tendons, ligaments and muscles all must work harder when walking in the sand because your foot sinks into the surface. 

I have to be extremely careful and take one step at a time (or walk like a crab sideways) and hope I don’t do some serious damage. Sometimes it can take me 10 minutes to walk just 10 metres from the sand to shore or where my family have situated.  Thankfully my husband understands and sometimes has to help me along, the beach is not my favourite place at all.

Along with all the above roller skating & ice skating are also totally off the list too, the screws and fused bones will never allow me to indulge in my old passion for skating.  

mom skater

I can also have a VERY basic hit of tennis, however if anyone wants to win a match,  choosing me as a partner in a game of doubles is not a good idea as I can not chase a ball.

 tennis mom

Over the last two years, I have been able to start up a new lifestyle of exercising, you can read about it here, which included joining a gym and doing a variety of group and circuit/boot camp classes.  Of course I had to take my ankle into account and had some instruction from various professionals on what I could and couldn’t do and how to work on it, while trying to avoid injury. 

Swimming has been a big part of my new exercise programme and I love it.  It works every muscle in the body, gives a great cardio workout and is relaxing too.  Each time I go, I seem to be able to swim further while gaining more upper body strength.

As far as gym equipment goes, I can use the following cardio machines; the rowing machine, the cross trainer and bikes.  

As for the treadmill, at first I didn’t realise I SHOULD NOT use this (my podiatrist advised me of this later on), I learnt the hard way by finding that as soon as I got to speed 5 (which is still VERY slow) an electrical pulse would shoot through my ankle causing excruciating pain.  Metal and electricity obviously don’t mix, so I stay clear of the treadmill now.  All the other apparatus – strength and weight training machines are also fine for my ankle. 

When it comes to doing various group or fitness classes, again there are some exercises that are impossible for me to do.  For starters, I am also not allowed to run (again this puts strain on the screws and fused bones – which I was also advised against by my podiatrist), however as an alternative, I can do star jumps, use a skipping rope or do a brisk walk.

I can also do squats, step ups (as long as they are not too high off the ground), sit ups (well.. I’m trying), push ups, etc.  Burpees however is not even possible (or any form of kneeling on the ground) as my left foot cant bend and has not much mobility, balance is very hard and even jumping is another exercise that I have to be careful doing or avoid, unless its done from the toes as in star jumps.

So, there you have it and although I am not be able to do the various sports I use to, I am enjoying this new exercising lifestyle and hope I am able to sustain it even with a funny foot to a ripe old age.  Exercising CAN be done and alternatives can be made for each individual, it only takes someone to guide and lead you in the right direction.  If you are unsure of your capabilities, contact your own health professional or seek a personal trainer with considerable experience and knowledge to help in your area of difficulties.

If I can do it with hardware (screws and staples) in my foot……so can you…..

…… there is nothing is beyond our reach as long we are willing to try.


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1 Comment

  1. Ann Anzul Ann Anzul
    7, August 2014    

    I’m so glad to hear you’re exercising in any way you can. We can’t all be athletes, but we can all do what we can to keep ourselves in good health–even if it’s only chair exercises. That’s so important to start now while we’re still younger. My mom is in her 80’s and she’s had two bad falls where she couldn’t get herself back up off the floor. She has polymyalgia rheumatica so it’s been rough for her the past few years. Fortunately, she lives with us and I was home both times when she fell. I wasn’t able to help her up, but I called my 21 year old (weight lifter) son. He managed to get her back into her chair. Poor Mum wasn’t hurt, just shaken up!

    I don’t know what my health will be like as I age, but as much as is in my control, I want to take care of myself. I do a dance/exercise class a few times a week at the YMCA, and there are senior ladies there in better shape than I. there’s one in her 80’s who keeps up pretty well. How awesome is that?! Balance exercises and floor exercises can help keep a body in really good condition.

    I really want to get my mum on an exercise program, too. She talks about it, now she just needs to find a way to do what she can–what’s she’s able to do. I think it will help her feel so much better!

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