How to Keep
Your Fitness
Momentum When
You Are Injured

woman runner hold her injured leg on road

3 minReading time

It happens. You are on a roll, making great progress in your diet and fitness quest when suddenly, you pull a muscle or develop a heel spur and can’t exercise. You feel a little panicked, wondering if all of your forward momentum and progress will be wiped away while you are sidelined. Indeed, the latest findings in sports medicine point to faster healing and fewer follow-along injuries in athletes who maintain some sort of exercise regimen while recovering from an injury.

Wondering where to start? Follow these strategies for maintaining your fitness while injured.

1 – Adjust your expectations/goals

Remember that you’re not trying to increase your fitness during this time, just to maintain your current level as much as possible. Approach your healing time in the same way you would if you were recovering from the flu –be gentle with yourself and know that even the smallest effort is better than doing nothing at all.

2 – Check with your doctor

Doctor showing digital tablet to woman. Female patient sitting with health professional. They are against window in hospital.

The primary objective of your plan should be centered around not making the injury worse. Make sure you get clearance from your doctor for any activities you want to try before you begin them.

3 – Think outside of your normal paradigm

Look for types of movement with little impact on the joints and muscles, but which have cardiovascular benefits. Swimming and water aerobics are typically safe for stress fractures or IT band issues. Plantar fasciitis and heel spurs are usually unaffected by some time on the exercise bike.

4 – Let pain be your guide

An athletic woman holding her shoulder (seen from behind)

The body gives messages of pain for a reason: stop what you are doing because something needs to be addressed! At the first sign of pain or discomfort, listen to your body and stop until you can seek advice from a medical or sports professional.

5 – Work with a physical therapist to avoid re-injury

Many injuries are caused by repetitive stress. Working with a Physical Therapist may help you discover the underlying causes of your injury and help you develop new strategies to help you avoid creating a chronic condition. Most PTs are also very helpful in developing an ongoing exercise routine to support the musculature around your injury site.

6 – Optimize your diet

Young brunette woman in sunglasses eating fresh salad outdoor in sunset, looking away

You might think that since you’re not working out as intensely, this would be a good time to cut calories, but remember that food also fuels healing. Make sure your diet includes plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to lower inflammation. If your injury is bone related, consider supplementing with calcium and vitamin D.

7 – Come back slowly

Once you are cleared to resume your regular workouts, start slowly. While your brain may think you can still perform at the same level you were at pre-injury, your body will need to ramp back up slowly. Your fitness level will return quickly, but try not to push yourself too far, too fast.

With a little caution and some good advice, your downtime doesn’t need to be a death knell to your fitness level. Heal smart to stay fit!

Joe Fleming is the President at ViveHealth.com. Interested in all things related to living a healthy lifestyle, he enjoys sharing and expressing his passion through writing. Working to motivate others and defeat aging stereotypes, Joe uses his writing to help all people overcome the obstacles of life. Covering topics that range from physical health, wellness, and aging all the way to social, news, and inspirational pieces…the goal is help others “rebel against age”.

Major health foodie from Brazil living in Stockholm. When not photographing food, I'm continuously trying to perfect the art of making ramen.

All posts by Jhady Arana