Last year, I asked my readers what they wanted to know about exercise and I got some great responses. One question, posed by Reader Teresa, really got my attention because it's something I've had to deal with and that I know many of my readers struggle with: "How to exercise after an injury; how to stay motivated and fit."
I know that Teresa struggled through an injury for many months and discovered just how hard it is to keep some kind of exercise routine going when you're a) In pain and b) Can't do what you normally do. Even experienced exercisers often flounder in the face of an injury because we simply don't know what to do.
Now, I do have some specific articles about this very topic: Should I Exercise With an Injury?, Getting Through an Illness or Injury, and I have some information about Avoiding Injury. I even have FAQs and workouts that may work depending on the injury in question - What exercises can I do with a lower body injury? (one answer: Seated Upper Body Workout) and Exercising With Knee Pain.
All of that said, there are some things that have helped me keep moving through injuries and illnesses. First, of course, is seeing your doctor if you haven't already. Your doctor should be your first resource to figure out what you need to do. Beyond that, there are other ideas to consider:
- Gather Information - A sure way to feel more in control of your situation is to get all the information you can about your injury/illness. That may mean consulting with doctors, physical therapists, trusted friends, other experts and, of course, the Interwebs. I'll caution you to avoid too much Googling, which can really freak you out. I'm saying that as a person who has gotten sucked into the self-diagnosis Google black hole.
- Be Willing to Try Anything - When I had a back injury for several months, about the only exercise I could tolerate was the elliptical trainer...my least favorite machine. And, at first it made me cranky, like the runner who can't run because of knee problems or the lifter who has to avoid heavy weights or certain exercises. However, what kept me going was figuring out what I could do and doing it. Maybe it isn't the same and maybe I miss what I used to do. But the point is to do two things: 1) Heal your injury and 2) Keep your spirits up and your body moving. If that means swimming instead of running or yoga instead of intense strength training, try to accept and create the best workout you can.
- Work With an Experienced Personal Trainer - Almost all the clients I see have come to me because they have chronic problems (knees, feet, shoulders) and don't know how to exercise around those issues. If you're in the same boat and you can manage it, consider a personal trainer. He or she can help you find tons of ways to exercise that you've never thought of. That alone can make you feel better as you realize you don't have to sit around and wait for your injury to heal.
Now, it's your turn. Do you have any tips for staying motivated through injuries or illnesses? If so, leave a comment and tell us how you've stayed motivated to exercise.