Nine Expert Tips For Getting Back Into Working Out After An Injury

Written in collaboration with Jean-François Harvey, osteopath, kinesiologist and author of Courir mieux

When you get injured, it’s tempting to either stop exercising altogether or get back to your routine as soon as possible. Most of the time, these two courses of action will only make the situation worse, which begs the question: what should you do?

To help you find the best solution, we asked Jean-François Harvey, an osteopath and kinesiologist and author of Courir mieux (which translates to “Running Better”, a Quebec bestseller about jogging correctly), to share his advice for people looking to come back from an injury as quickly—and safely—as possible. Here are his recommendations:

Consult a therapist 

When you get injured, it’s highly recommended to consult an osteopath, physiotherapist or doctor as early as possible to determine where the injury stems from and how severe it is. A therapist, will give you advice adapted to your situation, specifically about the right exercises to get you back to where you need to be—fast.

Keep moving

Recovery time is usually shortened by staying active. For example, if you’ve hurt your foot, then working out your abs or your arms is an excellent option for staying active without worsening your injury.

Start slowly 

Returning to your usual pace is tempting, but light training sessions—lasting 10 to 20 minutes—are more than adequate. If in doubt, do less. You should always find your first few workouts very easy. If that’s not the case, you’re going too fast.

Go impact-free

If your injury is heavy-impact related—such as a stress fracture—sports that feature little impact (swimming, cross-country skiing, cycling or aqua gym) are ideal to get you moving again. However, if you suffer from tendinitis or a muscular injury, this won’t necessarily be the case. Find out more from the professional who you consult.

Choose frequency 

Working out frequently for short periods of time is best: complete three to five short workouts per week rather than one long session.

Assess the intensity of your pain during and after the exercise

When you exercise, there should be little to no pain, and it should decrease from workout to workout. If the pain increases during or after your workout, stop immediately.

Avoid painkillers 

Painkillers can mask the important signals sent by your body to tell you something is wrong, so it’s best to avoid them, unless prescribed by your doctor.

Readjust your goals 

Do not attempt to start right back where you were before your injury: adjust your goals to make them both conservative and realistic. If you were training for a half-marathon, perhaps you should aim to complete a 5-km race, even if this may be hard for your ego.

Use orthotics, temporarily 

If you’ve injured an articulation, use an orthotic when returning to the initial exercise—it will help to stabilise the joint. However, make sure it’s only a temporary fix. Over the medium to long term, it’s better for your muscular system and stabilisers to adapt by themselves.

Injuries present you with unique opportunities to assess your weaknesses. They do not occur without reason: perhaps your workout isn’t the right length or intensity, maybe you don’t carry out repetitive movements properly, or maybe your warm-up isn’t the right one for you. Consulting a therapist is the best way to figure out what caused the injury and to adjust your technique. 

To ensure you’ve got the best chance at recovery, warm up properly (get moving!), don’t do too much too soon, pay extra attention when your energy stores are drained near the end of a workout, vary the types of exercises you do, stay hydrated, and give yourself the requisite time for recovery between workouts. It’s also highly recommended to consult a personal trainer from time to time to make sure your technique is on point.

Enjoy your workout!

Jean-François Harvey

Jean-François Harvey is an osteopath and kinesiologist renowned for his highly successful books Courir mieux and Entraînement spinal. He practices osteopathy at Spinal Mouvement and he teaches this discipline at the Collège d’études ostéopathiques. A passionate sportsman himself, Jean-François loves running, cycling and cross-country skiing.