Triathlon Cross Training With a Broken Ankle

A Broken Ankle Doesn’t Have To Prevent¬†Triathlon Improvements

My triathlon cross training the first three weeks after surgery.

Using hand cycling to crosstrain with a broken ankleCross training for triathlon with a broken ankle still includes plenty of options if¬†swimming, biking and running are off limits. ¬†I discovered there were ways to not only maintain fitness,¬†but also improve, despite my current limitations¬†in a¬†“not weight-bearing” state.

Training injured, in the strictest sense, is NO DIFFERENT than training while healthy.  A great training program focuses on all you can do at that moment so, injured or healthy, you focus on doing everything that you can THAT DAY.

Training injured, in the strictest sense, is NO DIFFERENT than training while healthy.  A great training program focuses on all you can do at that moment to get better.

When I am healthy, if my legs are super tired from running, I might take a break and ride or swim.  If my shoulders are maxed out from a lot of swimming, I might run a bit more and focus strength work on lower body.  The key is to focus on what you CAN IMPROVE while your body is in repair mode or fatigued.  Even while in the critical stages after ORIF surgery, there were ways for me to train and allow my body to heal.

So what did I do when I got injured and was told not swim/bike/run AT ALL (even swimming *sigh) for the first three and a half weeks?   I focused on three areas where I could actively make improvement.

Swim Specific Strength

triathlon cross training with a broken ankle pool swimming
Three weeks after my broken ankle I was allowed back in the pool

I decided it was a great time to really focus on my swim specific muscles.  I couldn’t do any heavy lifting with my legs but I could with my arms/lats/back/shoulders.  With no big swim workouts to worry about it was open season on my rhomboids, chest and back.   I am not the best at pullups but every day I am improving.  I started with 60-90 minutes of strength training a day alternating back/biceps, chest/shoulders, arms/little shoulder muscles.   This upper body strength will help my swimming as well as my running.

Hip Strength and Range Of Motion

triathlon cross training with a broken ankle hip exercises
This exercise is really great for hip strength

Laying on the floor doing¬†hip exercises was no problem – only glute bridge on my feet wasn’t possible. ¬†In general, I was able to do the same exercises¬†I would do for regular run strength maintenance as there were¬†ways to adapt and not be on my feet.¬† I found I could do hamstring curls and glute raises with the cast on¬†a swissball, so I could also target hamstrings without my feet on the floor. ¬†¬†I have a larger set of exercise options because I have an I-walk 2.0 crutch, so exercises¬†like hip 4-way ended up in my program. ¬†That crutch helps to keep me on my¬†legs and hips more than I would on crutches and gives me a lot more mobility.¬† More on this nifty device in the next post but check it out here:

Handcycling For Aerobic Fitness

triathlon cross training with a broken ankle training using a hand cycle
The hand cycle is really great for swim fitness.

My third training option arrived 10 days after surgery.  I borrowed an indoor hand crank machine from Silken Laumann and started pedaling it without really knowing what I was doing.  I googled hand cycling and found very little info.  Here is a Youtube of what I did in case you are planning to give it a try.


I am really surprised how well handcycling training transfers to swimming.  It offers a solid steady state workout that transfers directly to my swimming muscles.  I did not have spaghetti arms my first days back to swimming at all, thanks to that machine, so I don’t think I have lost any swim fitness from my broken ankle in three weeks.


Strength training is beneficial for bone density so it makes sense that it would be a good idea while healing bones.  To maximize my recovery from the injury, I went for treatment on the new microcurrent machine at Synergy Health Management three to four times a week.  For now, this machine has been my main rehabilitation resource as I work to heal the broken bones and ligaments in my ankle.  I have started range of motion exercises now that I am in the aircast, but I will update in the next post on the next steps for my recovery.

I am stoked with how healing of my fracture is progressing.  Sometimes the steps are just baby steps but as far as I can see I am getting to where I need to go.  My plan is to focus daily on doing everything I can Рwithout doing harm.  In this way, I am putting my best into finding opportunities to improve, no matter what the situation is.

Thanks for reading!




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