Back to exercise after injury? 3 common sense tips

By Lorne Opler

How many of us have been in this situation?   Our exercise routine is going well. We are making gains, seeing results, realizing our goals and  feeling good. And then...BOOM!  Injury!  Forced out of the gym, we now have to deal with recovery and all the physical and psychological consequences of being inactive.  Not easy for anyone who enjoys working out and does so regularly.  I've been there many, many times.  But once you're recovered enough to return to your workouts, starting over poses its own challenges...which I've also learned from experience.   Allow me, therefore, to offer three common sense suggestions for those who are returning to the gym after recovery.

  1. Starting over after an absence from the gym can feel onerous and frustrating.  You've lost muscle mass, aerobic strength and endurance.   The inclination of some of the keener exercisers (myself included) is to try and pick up where we left off.  Bad idea.  As much as we'd like to get back to where we were pre-injury, as quick as possible, nothing invites re-injury quicker than lifting weights that are too heavy or doing any aerobic exercise that is too intense or too long.   I speak from experience! 
    Although it's obvious to say start back gradually, some of us will be too eager to make up for lost time.  To those of you who fall into that camp (to which I admittedly belong),  I encourage you to take it slow.  Steady, deliberate movements will guide you back safely to your pre-injury fitness levels.
  2. Do you perform your workouts at a gym?   If so, consider going during off peak hours when less people means more availability of weight equipment and machines.  For someone coming back from injury, having to rush through a workout because people are waiting for you to finish your set, only invites sloppy form, poor technique and stress....all things that can combine to cause re-injury.
  3. Speak up! If you’re returning to the gym after an injury or prolonged hiatus and need help lifting a weight or adjusting a machine, better to ask someone for assistance than try and  do it on your own and again, risk injury.  Don't be shy. From my experience, most people in the gym are happy to give a lending hand.

In conclusion, I feel that when it comes to making progress in the gym after an extended time away, the operative word is PATIENCE. Truth is, if you've got a solid track record of exercise under your belt, you'll be amazed at how little time it takes you to get back into shape, even accounting for your post recovery long as you take your exercises slowly and carefully.  Keep lifting!  

About the Author:

Lorne is a Vintage Fitness personal trainer.  He works in mid-town, North and Downtown Toronto.  Lorne has a masters degree in health promotion and teaches at various colleges in the Toronto area.  He is an expert Nordic Pole walker and used to run an exercise program at a hospital for people suffering from arthritis.  

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