How to Get back into the Gym After Injury

By: Rachel Mangold
Edited by: Zachary Sparks

I never used to be one to get injured. I’ve never broken a bone and, other than the common case of shin splints during high school cross country, I’ve always been physically healthy. However, this past year I’ve thrown out my lower back, strained my bicep, and injured my sternum, which consequently stopped me from lifting for a month. After each injury, it’s hard to accept the fact that I’ll have to limit myself and take a break from the thing that gives me the most happiness and is a part of my job as a personal trainer.

The hardest part, however, is getting back into the gym with that black cloud of possible re-injury hanging over your head. When I threw out my lower back, it took me months before I could feel comfortable deadlifting again. Even after I knew my lower back had re-strengthened and could handle slowly working out again, I was hesitant to even start. I was terrified of being immobile and having to experience that immense amount of pain  again.

So then, what can you do when you’re in that position?

First thing to do is get medical clearance from a health care professional because further injury is NOT the goal. The next step is to reassess your goals, since your physical state and abilities have changed due to injury. Your new goal should be to work back up to where you left off. It can be difficult to shift your mindset and slow yourself down, especially when you’ve been diligent in your regimen or hitting physical milestones.

This is when the next step comes in: redefining ‘why’ you are working out. Why are you in the gym? Why are you weightlifting? What do you want to take away from this? Injury in the gym can wreck your mental state and puts a load of discouragement on your shoulders. Figuring out why you are working out can help keep you motivated and focused on your goals.

I can’t lie, the first session back in the gym will come with a mix of emotions. Excitement, anxiety, fear: you name it. But that first session is what gets the wheel turning again, and, as long as you re-enter your program safely and cautiously, that fire you once had will reignite. Don’t let an injury stop you in your tracks: push forward, continue to challenge yourself, and ignore that voice of self-doubt!

After my injury, I waited way too long to start deadlifting because I was afraid. Now, four months after regularly deadlifting again, I’m lifting heavier and more confidently than ever. “Recreate your dominance”is the motto I have begun to live by and I challenge you to do the same!

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