fb How to Feel Good Again in the Gym After an Injury - Coached

How to Feel Good Again in the Gym After an Injury

If, when getting back into exercise after an injury, you notice your confidence has taken a hit, you aren’t alone. Feeling uneasy is entirely normal, and with the right approach, many people quickly feel good again in the gym.

But, if your head is swimming with stress about skill regression and loss of strength, we’ve all been there. We’re here to help you through it in 4 key steps:

  • Understand your type of injury
  • Optimise your recovery phase
  • Return to working out
  • Prevent future injuries

Understanding the different types of Gym Injuries

An injury can make us cringe or feel a sense of fear towards what caused us pain, leading to psychological distress. Combine that with a loss of strength, and your injury can lead to a loss of confidence. But that doesn’t have to be the end of your fitness journey; it’s actually an important turning point.

How you return to the gym after an injury depends on what type of injury you sustained. Let’s dive into the different types of injuries and what they mean for recovery.

The most common gym injuries are as follows:

  • Knee, shoulder, or elbow dislocation
  • Shin splints
  • Tendonitis
  • Snapped/strained tendons
  • Wrist and ankle sprains

Training at your max capacity too often, no recovery time, poor mobility and flexibility, and increasing difficulty before you’re ready can lead to any of the injuries listed above.

Optimising Your Recovery Phase

The gym injury recovery process can’t be sped up. Being patient and accepting the gradual nature of recovery is often as painful as the injury itself. However, this makes recovery a great time to train your mental resilience and optimise other areas of your practice.

Initial healing phase

Phase one of your recovery is to let your injury heal. Follow your doctor’s instructions precisely and avoid any urge to get back to the gym before you’re given the all-clear.


Phase two of recovery is introducing modified exercises and gym rehab exercises to support your recovery and maintain strength without further impacting your injury. Listen to your GP or surgeon and commit to your physiotherapy as you would your gym routine.

Getting back to exercise

Once you can return to working out, create a post-injury workout plan where you begin at a much lower intensity than when the injury occurred. If you previously squat with 60kg, start by squatting just the bar. Finding the patience to build up at a slow pace is difficult, but getting injured again will make your process even slower. Channel the hare vs the tortoise as you get back into exercise and become as mentally strong as you are physically.

How Soon Can I Return to the Gym After an Injury?

If you have a minor injury such as light shoulder pain or a twisted ankle, rest for two weeks or until you have full mobility without pain for one week. If you have a more severe injury requiring medical attention, seek your doctor’s advice on when you can return to the gym.

What Are the Best Exercises for Post-injury Recovery?

Post-injury, when you’ve had the green light from your doctor, focus on gentle, natural movements such as walking, lifting lighter weights, and modified yoga. Continue being active, but make modifications to accommodate your injury.

The best exercise for someone with a leg injury may be yoga with a bolster cushion. Meanwhile, the best exercise for an upper limb injury could be walking to stay active. There is no one answer, even for two people with the same type of injury, as every injury is unique to that person.

Is It Possible to Regain the Same Level of Fitness After a Serious Injury?

Yes, most people can regain and even surpass their previous fitness level after a serious injury. If your injury heals with a weak point or scar tissue that restricts your range of movement, these factors may limit your recovery, but you can likely overcome these hurdles with additional therapy.

Injury Prevention Strategies

Most injuries occur when we put our egos before excellence. That may be hard to hear, but to stop yourself from becoming injured again, you need to confront what caused your injury in the first place.

Add mobility sessions to your workout schedule

Mobility is the act of adding different types of static and dynamic stretching into your workouts to improve the flexibility of your muscles, tendons, and joints. Focusing on mobility will reduce your chance of injury from moving in unnatural ways as your body has a greater expected capacity for movement. 

Take rest days

Your muscles need time to repair themselves and grow bigger and stronger. Not resting will lead to plateaued results and, often, injury. One study found injuries were most common in individuals exercising five or more days a week. 

If you’re determined not to rest, add active rest days focusing on whole-body recovery, such as hiking or gentle yoga (Yin style, not rocket yoga!).

Increase your intensity, range, or weights slowly

Progressing too quickly, especially with free weights, will increase your chance of injury. One study found that 42% of people studied became injured using free weights and across exercise methods. The highest cause of injury, at 36%, was through unnatural movement because of overexertion. 

Building Confidence After Injury

To build your confidence in the gym after an injury, focus less on your strength and more on getting used to working out again. Build a support network around you and seek a professional trainer to evaluate what you’re ready to take on and give you the confidence to push yourself once again.

Can Psychological Strategies Help in Overcoming the Fear of Reinjury?

Yes, using a mind-body intervention called guided imagery and gradual exposure and positive thinking can help you overcome the fear of repeat injury at the gym.

Incorporating Fitness Into Daily Life

Leaving the gym behind while you recover from an injury is difficult, but it’s easy to incorporate fitness into everyday life.

Habit stacking

Try habit stacking, a method of associating a desirable habit with a habit you already have. You could do ten squats as you brush your teeth or try a one-minute plank as you wait for the kettle to boil.

Healthy lifestyle choices

It’s easy to weave fitness into your everyday life by making healthier choices. We aren’t just talking about taking the stairs over the lift. Try scheduling to meet friends for a walk rather than going to the pub. Build fitness into your lifestyle so it becomes the default, not a chore.

At Coached, members talk to us every day about their experiences and feelings about having an injury. We’re a supportive place to help those apprehensive about returning to the gym after an injury or a prolonged break. 

If you want to talk to a professional about getting back into fitness and hitting your goals, read more about our recovery service. Our qualified coaches are here to help.

Other Articles

The Benefits of Strength Training For Women Over 40

The Benefits of Strength Training For Women Over 40

It is just a fact of life that everybody ages, but the rate at which we do so, the length of time for which we can keep ourselves feeling and looking younger, is partly within our control. All age groups can benefit from strength training, but this is particularly...

Health & Fitness During Andropause

Health & Fitness During Andropause

As men reach their late 40’s and early 50’s, it can feel like their body is playing tricks on them. Fortunately, there’s an explanation for any changes you or a loved one may experience and a host of ways to battle symptoms head-on.  The change is called ‘Andropause’,...

Health & Fitness During Perimenopause

Health & Fitness During Perimenopause

Perimenopause is a unique experience for everyone, but fitness is known to be universally beneficial in helping you through the next 12 months or longer. Your added life experience could make you better at sticking to and achieving your goals than any previous time in...