Exercise Q&A

Q: I have a friend who just broke her ankle. She's used to a very active lifestyle (running five to 10 miles per day), but of course now she's bound in a cast. What kinds of exercises do you recommend to keep her from going crazy?

A: Start picking out a straitjacket because a bit of insanity might be inevitable. After all, explains Rachel Miller, owner of ProAction Physical Therapy in Kensington, Md., and an avid marathoner, "For a runner, there's nothing that can replicate running."

Although that bulky cast is keeping her off the track, it needn't stop her from plotting her grand return. Miller suggests she take the time to focus on strengthening, which many runners skip so they have more hours to race. Lying down, she can try leg raises four ways — on each side, on her back and on her stomach. Crunches and seated weight lifts pass muster, too.

Do enough of those exercises in a circuit, and hey, that's cardio. For more heart-rate raising, she might want to be on the lookout for a gym with an arm bike, or UBE (upper body ergometer). She can give her lower limbs a rest while her healthy parts do the work.

But even once the doctor pronounces her healed, don't let her sprint off as if nothing had happened. "There's something called 'the terrible toos' — too much, too soon and too fast," warns Miller. "Just because you're out of the cast doesn't mean you're home free." Her ankle will probably emerge stiff, and the unaffected leg will likely be much stronger. Miller recommends balancing on the weaker leg, and aqua jogging to regain lost strength before returning to her pre-break routine.

Q: I'm just starting to work out. I wonder whether outfitters have clothes in larger sizes or only sizes for those who are already fit and trim.

A: Skinny people don't have a monopoly on exercise, but for some reason most clothing companies have been awfully slow to figure this out. So, I'm not going to lie to you: It's much harder to get outfitted for exercise if you're a guy bigger than an XXL or if you're a plus-size woman.

But there's hope. There are signs the fitness-wear industry is finally realizing how stupid it's been. REI, for instance, is making larger sizes a priority in its own line this season, rolling out base layers, outer layers and everything in between. "It's not just a few pieces — you can get crew necks, zip tops, fitness pants or capris," notes Susannah Brouwer, presentation specialist at the Bailey's Crossroads, Va. store. But don't expect to find the products on the racks. You can finger the fabrics and check out the cuts on smaller garments in stores. But then you'll have to order online. (There are "extended sizes" areas for both men and women on the company's Web site).

One of the reasons REI jumped into this field is that only a few of the other brands it carries have expanded their sizing options. You may want to take a look at Columbia Sportswear, which has not forgotten the big and tall crew. And, for the ladies, Moving Comfort and Sporthill have plus-sizes galore.

Spend enough time in these duds and soon enough you'll be able to fit into anything in the store.

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