Coming Back From Injury: 10 Things To Remember by Lisbeth Darsh

Coming Back From Injury: 10 Things To Remember by Lisbeth Darsh

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who have been injured, and those who will be injured.runners unsplash

Life, done right, is a contact sport. At some point, despite the best of training and intentions, everyone suffers an injury of some sort. It could be as minor as a finger sprain or as major as broken bones or more. It could be you accidentally colliding with another person, or tearing shoulder cartilage on a pull-up, or busting a collarbone after getting tossed over bike handlebars. Whatever your injury and however it happens, this much is certain: all injuries suck, but fortunately you can treat this injures with sports medicine boise.

There’s no better way to put that sentiment. No piling on of fancy words, no elongation of vowels or consonants can make it better. You’ve been injured: you’ll have to heal, and then you’ll want to come back. And, as if the pain of injury wasn’t bad enough, you’ll likely lose some of your strength and fitness while you’re healing, and you will have to work to regain it.

But remember this: a large part of a successful return is mindset.

Injuries happen, and flowers are always nice

Injuries happen.

“Will I make it back to 100%?”

I asked this question to the Physical Therapist guiding me through rehab after my ACL replacement years ago. I wanted to know if I would ever again ride as hard as I did, play point guard, play left field, squat, and be able to sit on the couch with my leg curled up under me. You know, normal stuff.

He smiled and replied, “You’re eager to do the exercises and Assisted stretching therapy here, and then you ask for more to do at home. You’re not the kind of patient we worry about. You’ll make it back 100%. It’s the people who don’t want to come here and do the work that worry us. They might not make it back to 100%.”

So, if you’re like me and you want to make it back to 100%, let’s work through some mindset tips that will help you return from injury:

1.) Stay Mentally in the Game

Watch, listen, and learn as if you are a fully functioning athlete, even when you’re injured. Read and watch video of your sport or activity, if it helps. Just because you can’t currently perform at the level to which you are accustomed doesn’t mean you should stop learning. Work on your visualization. You might not be able to physically jerk the barbell, but you can always do so mentally.

(But, if you find that watching your sport or activity is like poking a sharp stick into your own eye, stop for a while. Take some time off and rekindle your hunger. If you truly love your sport/activity, your desire will return. Read “The CrossFit Blues” for a peek into this mindset.)

2.) Keep Your Social Circle

For many of us, our best friends are in the gym and on the playing field. When we can’t play, it feels like we’ve lost our friends as well as our sport. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Go to the gym or the playing field, if you can. You might not be able to do the same workout, but you may be able to modify it. And if modification is out of the question? Show up anyhow. Just because you can’t “lace ’em up” doesn’t mean you can’t show up. Cheer. Hang out. Be a friend, not only a teammate. If you can get past the ego-crushing part of non-participation, you’ll be able to enjoy watching and cheering. You might even pick up some pointers, or be able to help someone else. Be prepared to adjust your role, but you don’t have to abandon your fun place if you don’t want to.

Also, don’t forget you can meet your gym-mates outside of the gym! (I know, crazy, right? Breakfast with your 6am crew? It can be done! People exist outside the gym, too!)

3.) Give Yourself Time To Heal

Recovering from injury is not as simple as healing. You’ll most likely have anger or sadness. Maybe a bit of self-pity too. (“Why me?”) Let emotions come, and let them go like summer storms. Don’t shove your emotions down or ignore them. Let them surface and pass. Injury is a bit of a grieving process (remember the Kubler-Ross stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance), so grieve. If the pity pool appears, swish and get out.

4.) Take Full Advantage of This Time

Downtime can be productive time, if you use it right. Remember, there are people who achieve Personal Records after returning from injury. They rested, healed, and used their downtime effectively. Try to be those people.

Also, if you have kids (or a dog!), you might find that healing time can provide more together time with them. Enjoy this time. There are benefits to it!

5.) Don’t Jump Back Into the Deep End First

When you are ready to train or play again, don’t expect to jump back in where you jumped out. Re-entry into training is a gradual process.

Metaphorically, start where your feet can touch bottom, then walk farther into the water, and then learn to swim again in the deep water. Don’t jump off the side of the pool, get a huge mouthful of water, and struggle to stay afloat. Be smart. Step back in and wade out gradually to where you used to swim. For example, this might mean air squats first, then box squats, then back squats, then front squats, then overhead squats. Progression, just like when you started training.

Build your confidence slowly so you don’t get frustrated and decrease your own performance. Little steps can pay big rewards, physically and mentally.

6.) But Make Certain You Do What You Can When You Can

biking in CT 2007

I made it back. So can you.

Make goals and keep challenging yourself. Start as soon as you can. 

The day after my ACL surgery, I crutched my way over to the bike trainer in my house and got on that bike. My knee was so swollen that it took me 10 minutes of trying before I could make one revolution. 10 minutes of moving the pedals back and forth before I could make one revolution. Then I screamed like a banshee. Not out of joy, but from pain. It hurt that much. But I made it. Then I took more pain meds and crutched back to my bedroom to watch “Lord of the Rings.” (Oh my, that was a head trip.) But I got on that bike trainer every day after that, eventually taking my road bike outside again. Two months later, I was on the dusty mountain bike trail again, chasing my training partner. I was back.

Listen to your medical professionals and your coaches, and progress when they say it’s safe to progress. But get back on that bike or trail or barbell when you can. Fight your way back.

7.) Don’t Judge Your Rehab or Return By Anyone Else’s Yardstick

Nobody else is you. Everyone heals at a different rate. Yes, you might have a guide as to how long or short it will take you to return. But remember it’s a guide, not a law.

It also might help at some point to quit reading about injuries on the internet, especially other people’s accounts of how messed up they are. The injury internet seems to be filled with doom and gloomers. There’s always someone eager to tell their story of how much worse their pain was and how difficult it was to heal. Let them win that game! Run the other way. Keep your view optimistic and press on.

8.) Don’t Let Fear Take Your Head

We are more scared of getting injured than we are scared by the actual pain of injury. Often, our body does not retain the acute pain of injury, but our mind does.

What does that mean? That the physical feeling stops, but the mental image remains—and that can be even harder to deal with. What can help?

Stop playing the bad video in your head. Replace it with a good video, with memories of you strong and capable.

And if you have a setback in your training on the road back? Don’t freak out. Stay calm and keep working. You’ll get where you need to get eventually, or you will most assuredly learn to cope.

9.) Consider Your Age

This is one of the few times when I’m going to say this. Usually, I tell you to forget your age. Usually, I say age is just a thing. Usually, I say that age is not a disability so stop treating it as such.

When it comes to returning from injury, however, I do want you to give a passing thought to your age. The younger you are, the quicker you will heal. That’s just reality.

We are human. Our bodies get a little more worn with each passing year. Take that into account and remember to be smarter next time.

Does that mean quit? No! But you might need to take some considerations into account. For example, after working to eliminate recurring back pain, I took my PT’s advice and eliminated box jumps from my training. I step up now, and save that repeated impact on my spine. Is this a huge sacrifice? No, because like many sane people, I loathe box jumps. Eliminating them is an adjustment I’m willing to (and should) make for the health of my spine.

10.) Remember: You Didn’t Die

You are injured, but you’re still here. There are people in this world with far worse things going on. Yes, your injury is important, but you are still breathing. Perspective is everything.


What’s the best way to deal with an injury? Prevent the next one, if possible. Sometimes you can do that by training smarter. Sometimes you can’t. Most of all, remember that it’s just an injury, not the end of the world. You’re here, and you can make it back. Good luck! (And if you know someone who is injured, share this article with them. It might help!)

More Articles You Might Enjoy:

“Is It Wise to Work Out While Injured?”

“Evidence of a Miss”


“How to Eat and Move When You’re Injured”