The 5-Step Plan to Getting Back to Exercise After an Injury

weight lifting

Injuries are often painful and frustrating. They occur unexpectedly and take time to heal. And sometimes, they may force you to step back from your training routine for a while. This could be days, weeks, months, or even years, depending on the severity of the injury.

Whether it’s a torn muscle, a sprained ankle, or a more severe injury such as a broken bone, you should give it enough time to heal before going back to your regular exercise routine.

Sometimes, the wait can seem too long. You’re just eager to hit the road again and continue with your fitness routine.

One thing is for sure: You can’t just pick up from where you left off. You might feel well and ready to exercise, but every injury takes longer to heal completely than what it may look on the surface. Therefore, it’s crucial to have a plan to get back to exercise without triggering the injury. 

Here are five steps to help you resume your fitness routine after an injury.

  1. Get your doctor’s approval

First things first, you must talk to your healthcare provider before engaging in any rigorous physical activity after an injury. Unfortunately, many people skip this step but regret it later. 

Your doctor should be the only person to confirm your recovery and let you back to training. This is, of course, after diagnosing your injury.

Your healthcare provider will assess the extent and severity of your injury and determine whether you have complications or issues that may not be immediately apparent. 

If you’re good to go, they’ll give you the green light to start exercising. If not, they’ll help you establish a timeline that reduces risks and maximizes your chances of a successful recovery.

It’s worth noting that pushing yourself too soon or too hard can cause setbacks or reinjure. Therefore, you should get the optimal timing from your healthcare provider to resume physical activity.

A physical therapist can recommend exercises that will help relieve any remaining tension or pain. They also ensure you don’t over-exert or put a strain on muscles that can lead to severe pain.

If you have any underlying tension limiting your activity, you might want to book a session with a registered massage therapist. These professionals help accelerate the healing of damaged tissues and minimize underlying tension.

  1. Go slow

Getting the green light from your doctor doesn’t mean you should go full steam. In fact, they will advise you to start exercising slowly.


Your injured muscles and tissues are not fully recovered. They are still weak and vulnerable to damage. To minimize the risk of re-injury, start with low-intensity exercises that do not aggravate your injury.

Also, most injuries cause stiffness and reduced range of motion. Therefore, start with slow, deliberate movements and stretches to gradually improve flexibility and restore joint mobility without straining the injured area.

Plus, your injury is not fully recovered. Therefore, your body needs to focus its energy and resources on the healing process without being overwhelmed by the demands of vigorous exercises.

Generally, you should reduce your initial exercising effort by 50% (or even more) of your “normal” level. Then, you can increase slowly as you go. If you’re a runner, for instance, you might want to start by walking. If you’re a weightlifter, begin with light weights and gradually move to heavy bench pressing.

  1. Listen to your body

Your body knows exactly what it wants. However, your mind decides what your body does. While it’s good to listen to your mind, you must also listen to your body.

Often, after an injury, there’s a conflict between your body and mind. The mind wants you to run as fast as possible or lift the heaviest weight because you miss your routine. But your body is still weak and not ready to go full throttle.

So, if you’re recovering from an injury and want to return to your training routine,  listen to your body, not your mind.

If you feel that you can’t perform a particular exercise, perhaps running, stretching, or weightlifting, don’t force yourself. Try other activities that your body feels okay to perform.

During the initial recovery stages, you might experience some discomfort, which is normal. However, you must differentiate between normal soreness and real pain that indicates a problem. If you feel pain when exercising, your body is trying to signal that something is wrong. Therefore, you should halt your exercise and consult your healthcare provider.

  1. Stretching and balancing

When returning to exercise after injury,  prioritize stretching and balancing. These exercises help minimize muscle imbalances stemming from weak muscles. They help restore balance and symmetry, which are vital for optimal movement and function.

Additionally, stretching increases blood flow to muscles and tissues, nutrients, and oxygen delivery, essential for healing. Better blood and nutrient circulation can accelerate the recovery process and minimize inflammation.

Also, stretching exercises help improve flexibility and restore the full range of motion in affected areas. This helps prevent further injuries during the exercise. Remember, an injury may cause your muscles and tissues to become stiff, limiting your range of motion.

So, it’s essential to warm up before beginning any exercise. Your doctor or physical therapist will show you the stretches to perform and for how long. Stretching helps strengthen your core muscles while improving your posture.

  1. Get expert help

The journey to recovery can be long and complicated, especially if you go alone. However, an expert can help you ease your recovery and help you get back to your exercise routine sooner.

So, if you have any challenging exercises after an injury, don’t hesitate to ask for help.

For instance, you can work with a certified personal trainer with post-injury rehabilitation experience to help you design a safe and effective exercise program. These professionals can also guide you on proper technique, monitor your progress, and adjust your workouts as needed.

Final thoughts on getting back to exercise after an injury

Getting back to your exercise routine after an injury can be challenging. Your body hasn’t recovered fully yet, so you can’t jump right into it.

But if you feel you can exercise, get your doctor’s approval and start with low-intensity exercises while listening to how your body responds. Then, increase your intensity slowly as you go. Eating well and staying hydrated during this period is important to aid recovery.

You might have a case if your injury resulted from a car accident. If so, feel free to contact a car accident lawyer to help you with your case.