Get Back in the Game: Exercise After Injury


Getting old ain’t for sissies.  You’ve hear this age-old expression for years but it takes on a whole new meaning when it affects YOU and your life.  If your exercise routine has been sidelined due to an injury, now is the time to finally fix the problem.  Procrastination happens; but when you’re putting off something that is adversely affecting your life, it’s time to make a change.  Simply follow these easy steps and you’ll be pain-free and back in the gym before you know it:

Get Motivated!  Envision yourself without the pain and disability of your injury. Don’t “accept” your pain as a natural part of the aging process. You may want to get better but you have to realize that it will involve some work and effort on your part.  Take time to learn as much as you can about your condition and make a daily appointment in your calendar for your rehabilitation.  Your injury is not going to magically go away by itself and the longer you wait, the harder it will be to recover.

Become Aware.  Take a few moments to write down all the ways your injury is affecting you.  Are you having trouble sleeping?  Are you favoring one side of your body?  Are you taking additional medications?  Have you been avoiding certain movements or limiting your normal range of motion?  One minor injury can impact your entire body in a number of ways.  If you’re suffering from heel pain, you may think it’s not that big of a deal.  But when you consider how it’s affecting your body as a WHOLE (by taking meds, favoring your left foot, interrupting your sleep) you’ll recognize that even a small injury can be a big deal.

Get Proper Instruction.  If your injury is in need of medical attention, stop putting it off and schedule the appointment today.  If you think you have an overuse injury, such as tendonitis, you may want to consider seeking the advice of a qualified physical therapist before seeing a medical doctor.  In 1992 the state of Pennsylvania legalized Direct Access which means you don’t need a referral to see a physical therapist (unless your insurance requires it).  A good therapist can pinpoint your problem, give you hand-on treatment and teach you the proper stretches and exercises to help alleviate your pain and dysfunction.  Your therapist will also let you know when it’s appropriate to a physician.  A simple injection or minor surgery may be required to get you on the road to recovery.

Chart Your Progress.  The healing process is sneaky.  One day you’re in excruciating pain and before you know it, you feel fine.  Many people don’t even realize they’re getting better until someone asks them about the level of pain they’re experiencing.  My friend Robin was taking rehabilitative Pilates to get in shape for a knee replacement. A week before the surgery, her husband (who happens to be an orthopedic surgeon) noticed she wasn’t limping anymore.  He asked her if she was in pain and she looked at him in disbelief and said no.  After months of horrific bone-on-bone pain, she hadn’t even realized that the Pilates had realigned her knee joint and taken away the pain.

Go Slowly.  When you get in the pain-free zone, don’t screw up all your hard work by doing too much too soon.  Listen to your body!  Ease back into your old routine or try a new program recommended by your physician, therapist or personal trainer.  Give your body what it needs, not what you think it needs, and you’ll be feeling good as new in no time.


  • Cynthia Russell
    October 10, 2012

    I’ll put this away and reread it when I get old and start having pains! Like next year 🙂

    • October 10, 2012

      Lucky you! I wish I could say I’ve never had an injury!! 🙂

  • Jennifer Jacobs
    October 10, 2012

    Perfect timing on this article Molly. I’ve been sidelined with an injury since mid August and I JUST signed up for another 1/2 marathon to make myself get back on track.

    • October 10, 2012

      Sorry to hear you’ve been injured Jennifer. What happened? Setting a goal, like a 1/2 marathon, is a great motivator to get back in a routine. Just be careful not to over-train and try to do too much too soon. Let us know how the training and race goes!

  • Vicki
    October 10, 2012

    Hi Molly. What a surprise to see my photo up there. Was that because I am a qualified PT or is that because I have recovered from injuries at such an old age? Over 50, recovery takes more time and attention but definitely worth it! Thanks for the encouragements and your insights! Love you.

    • October 10, 2012

      You’re not only a “qualified” PT, you’re the best Vicki! That’s why you[r picture is there…but, as you point out, you’ve recovered from MANY injuries over the years! Thanks for the comment 🙂

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