The Mental Aspects of Recovering from an Injury

Many people end up avoiding certain sports or exercises because they once suffered an injury from which they never fully recovered. It is a shame but not totally unexpected. If you play sports or physically push yourself, you are bound to injure yourself eventually. It is what happens when we push our bodies to the very limit. But too many people never bounce back, not because of their bodies, but because of their mindset.



The first step to fully recover from an injury is to stop training and evaluate the injury. Too many gym goers will push on even though they have picked up a niggling injury and turn something quite small into a serious problem. When something is bothering you, stop training and get it checked out. Ignoring the problem will only make it worse.


Physical therapy is designed to restore your body to a natural balance and build your strength back up in the affected area. I know several guys who never finished their physical therapy, leaving them with an underperforming limb, and instead of building it back stronger, just accepted that they would never be able to lift on that limb again. This is totally insane.

Just grit your teeth and complete the whole physical therapy treatment. Once you have finished it, you can start lifting again and build the area back up to where it needs to be.


Everyone is different. Some men rush back from injury because they knew another guy who could start training again with the same problem after a week. This is equally as problematic. Coming back too early will only cause problems again. Instead of focussing on time, focus on functionality.

When I had knee surgery, I didn’t even think about how much time I had been out of the gym and off the rugby pitch. I just focussed on returning when the swelling went down and when I achieved full extension and mobility again.

I know other guys who returned to action much sooner than I did after their surgeries. But my knee never bothers me now and I barely recall having the injury. They frequently still end up with aches, pains, and niggles in their knees despite putting the injury behind them.  


For many, the physical rehabilitation is the easy part, it is the mental disruption that takes time and patience to overcome. It is this alone that stops them from returning to the gym, or to their sport.

It is normal to have a fear of injuring yourself again, but if your physical recovery has gone well, and the afflicted part has been rested long enough and built back up, then re-injury should not be a likely scenario.


Another tendency for people returning from injury is to train as though nothing has changed. They go back to the same workouts, without changing anything or accommodating for their injury. When coming back to the gym, you need to accept that you had the injury. Change your workouts to build up the muscle around the affected area and strengthen the region.

If you can’t do specific exercises you used to do, find an alternative. If you suffered a back injury, stop doing heavy back squats and do goblet squats, split squats, or kettlebell squats. Plodding on as though nothing has changed won’t do you any favours.

An injury doesn’t have to be a major setback. It can be an advantage. Taking the opportunity to rest up, and re-evaluating your training can be a blessing. The way you respond to the injury will dictate how debilitating it is and if you will ever make a full recovery.


Anthony Hill

When you put together the sum total of my 30 years of bodybuilding training, the contests, the vast array of diets I have experimented (tortured) myself with as well as the experiences I have been through with various training partners in the gyms I have trained in all over the world, it’s been a great ride and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to be able to do lots of personal training for private clients alongside my day job. For a few years during my 30’s, I moved to Asia and worked as the Fitness Manager and head personal trainer at one of Thailand’s leading gyms in Bangkok. Learn More

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