How to exercise again after a layoff or injury

Waiting for an X-ray in Bali one lifetime ago.

So I am happy to report that I just finished my first two-week program after a month of not doing anything following knee pain. Of course, it would be ideal if my workout routine is continuous but stop-and-go is better than not exercising at all, isn’t it?

Maybe you are in the same situation – taking a break, having some pain, or thinking of starting working out. My best advice is to just do it! It can be challenging at the start but you will only ever have to do 30-seconds at a time.

Each day that you manage to work out is a success that you can be proud of! Following are some tips that I hope can motivate you to begin today.

1. Choose multiple short exercises rather than one long routine.

Three 10-minute workouts seem more doable than one 30-minute long exercise. Of course, the length is the same but breaking it up is easier for the mind. Each short routine done is a success and the momentum creates new energy.

After a layoff, the mind needs more convincing. I usually tell myself, I will only do the first 10 minutes and stop if I do not feel good. I always finish the rest. The hardest part is not the exercise but getting up to begin.

2. Start with the low-impact version.

Modification supports our bodies.

Even pro athletes start with light training post-injury or after a period of inactivity. The body needs to get used to the movements again. It does not matter what crazy things we can do before – a gradual increase in intensity is necessary to ensure there are no accidents and that the body is ready for what we ask of it. Don’t ever feel bad for doing low-impact or modifications! Eventually, we will return to our previous shape and perform in the same high level. Here is a HIIT for beginners, in case you are keen to try.

3. Get loose.

Yoga is such a useful practice. It increases flexibility and range of movement and helps to tone and strengthen the body. Every time I stop high-intensity training, I make sure to do yoga daily to keep my muscles and joints fluid.

It is also a good measure of how my body is healing. Certain postures point out areas that are ready to go and highlight those that still have kinks. Fortunately, it is easy to modify yoga poses and do them in a way that opens the body correctly.

4. Do not force it.

Understandably, we want to work out as soon as possible – it is healthy and it makes us feel good. But on our first tries, it is a must to be aware of how working out affects our body, especially if post-injury. If something is off, or worst, hurting, we should not force it even if it means extending the layoff for a few more days or weeks. Otherwise, we will only miss double the time or hurt ourselves further.

5. Be patient.

It is incredibly frustrating to be sidelined, especially if we feel we have been doing so well. But life happens and we just have to deal with it. We must be patient with ourselves, even if it means beginning from zero again.

I always feel heavy in the first week of training but it is nice to see the improvements as I keep going every day. Consistency is the key here. We just have to do something every day, not as a punishment for what we ate or for what we did to get injured but to see what our bodies can do and how far our minds can take us.

One day I will train muay thai again!

Our efforts will never be wasted or taken away from us. Let us just pick up where we left off and use the time to work out instead of complaining or being in a bad mood.

Have you been exercising lately? When was the last time you worked out and how do you feel about it?

32 thoughts on “How to exercise again after a layoff or injury

  1. Injury and pain are a bummer but a reality. Thank you for your encouraging and helpful post for those who are recovering and regaining strength and fitness.

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        1. Yes! I remember GSP said, the most important work out we have is the one where we did not want to be there but we did it anyway. It matters because we obviously stepped over a mental block that will allow us to be stronger for next time.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. These are great tips. Something I apply to myself is the ten minute rule, which basically has similarities to the first point as getting started is the hardest part and usually I want to do more!

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  3. Great tips! I slacked off with my workouts towards the end of last month. I set goals starting in April which consists of two different forms of workout, one being weight and strength training. I’ve mostly been doing cardio, so the weight training kicked my butt. I started off with my normal weights (which I know better), and had to gradually accept the fact that I needed to go down. I then did the same workout with the same trainer the very next morning (yesterday to be exact), and now my arms are so sore. My muscles are tight and inflamed. I already planned lighter workouts (flexibility and walking for the weekends), so this will give me time to recover before I start lifting again on Monday or Tuesday. I don’t want this pain again, so I’m focusing on staying consistent with my lifting along with cardio going forward.

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    1. I could almost feel the burn, Toni! Good job on moving forward with a better perspective. I do weight training sometimes. It feels good. Now it is just light training for me, too. I can still feel my knees!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think I last worked out more than 5yrs ago, before the knees gave up and I got med induced lupus.

    I tried a morning walk back in… Nov? 2720 steps = bedridden for a week by pain.

    I’d love to be able to get back into circus art classes!!

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    1. Sorry to hear about this. Slowly, slowly. I am also looking forward to the pandemic being under control in your area so you can try swimming in any public pool. It could be fun and helpful.

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      1. I don’t even know where there’s a public pool around here! We have a former,/future Olympics pool but it’s inconvenient and I think the hours were odd.
        If I don’t end up unemployed again, I’ll have to look into aqua aerobics at the Y.

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  5. My exercise routine became steady when I began doing two five-minute workouts a day. It seemed piddling, but those sessions got me ready for walking in the morning and warmed me up before I got into a cold bed at night. If I had to set aside half an hour each time, I wouldn’t do it consistently.

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    1. Yes, the best workout is the one that works for us! Really well done, Anne. Some days, I am annoyed by how much time my workout program takes, but most days I am incredibly sure this is what I need.

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  6. I have an exercise routine that I do every morning. It only takes 20-30 minutes. It started out many years ago after hurting my back and I have kept it up ever since with only one or two breaks. It is mostly based on what I was given to do by physiotherapists although I have added some other moves. It is rather like doing a yoga routine. In the past, I did attend TaeKwondo classes when I was in my 30s but it was too much and I converted to Tai Chi. However, when we returned to NI some 14 years ago I couldn’t find good classes so whilst that upset me I still carried on doing my morning routine. I’m not super-fit but at 71 I do okay especially since my old back does continue to give me problems. In Nov 2019 I had sciatica in one leg which really set me back, I slept in a chair until Jan 2020 and was on some really heavy medications, and only started walking again in February. Then the pandemic began in March then lockdown and shielding my wife who is CEV. I’m still not out of the woods regarding my back and legs but I continue with my routine with hope for the future.

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    1. Wow, such strength to go through all this! How mcuh pain are you still feeling now? I am with you – for six months following knee injury I was also unable to walk. What a bunmer. I really admire you for keeping up your morning routine through the years. How did you start tae kwon do? It has always looked fun to me. Recover well and gain more strength!

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      1. My eldest daughter wanted to try TaeKwondo and she was good. But I sat at the side and watched when the coach said to join in! Which I did. My daughter gave up weeks later but I stayed on. It was no good though as I was training with mostly kids (I was in my 30s) and they put me to shame. TaiChi was a better option and both my wife and I could go and it was brilliant. Loved it. My back problem can be managed by staying mobile but in Dec 2019 sciatica really wiped me out. I slept in a chair for 2 months and only started walking with 2 walking sticks in Mar 2020. Thankfully sciatica has gone but my legs have not been the same since especially my feet. I have walked good distances in my time but now I can’t walk more than 30 minutes without having problems. The doctor says it will get better but things are slower to improve the older one gets! Putting my heels down causes pain and the knock-on effect is my walking is out of kilter. I continue with my daily exercise routine because it keeps my whole body mobile and so it gives me hope. This time last year as I was getting over my difficulties my wife had to have a second mastectomy (she had a mastectomy about 7 years ago) so that just added to 2020 being a year we want to forget, but of course, you cannot forget such things!

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        1. Some form of sport together is always fun. I can imagine how much you both enjoyed TaiChi. And sorry to hear about these challenges. On YouTube there are specific yoga classes for sciatica pain. Maybe it is something to look at? It must be so hard to deal with the surgery on pandemic year. My father went in the OR early this year, too. We postponed it last year because of the risk of the pandemic. Is everything okay now, post-surgery?

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  7. I work out pretty much every morning and go for at least one, if not two, walks every day. I have always worked out at home and, working from home full time during the pandemic has given me more time to do that. I’ve discovered lots of new YouTube fitness channels to keep things interesting.

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