Getting Back into Shape after an Injury - Here’s What to Expect!


Tammy George

 A young couple giving each a high-five after exercising

If you’ve had an injury that stopped you exercising, you’ll know how quick your fitness decreases. Your lack of mobility causes the kilos to creep up and before you know it, you’re right out of shape. But it’s possible to get your physique and fitness level back – with some effort.

Many people are surprised by their results (or lack thereof), particularly if they haven’t attempted to get back into shape before. Here are some points people discover.

Weight Loss Isn’t Easy 

Ask anyone who has lost a lot of weight and they will tell you, weight loss is a bumpy road. You might have some early wins and the kilos fall off but then your weight plateaus and you struggle to lose any more weight, often around the six-month mark.

Doctors aren’t sure why this occurs but the most likely reasons include:

  • Your metabolism slows down after losing some weight
  • Your body tries to protect itself from any further weight loss
  • People slip and don’t follow their diet as strict as they were in the early days

Check your food and activity record to make sure you haven’t loosened your rules without realising. To lose more weight, you either need to increase your physical activity or further reduce your calorie intake. If you aren’t already, try lifting weights to increase muscle mass which helps burn more calories. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep as this can improve your chance of losing weight.  

 Young adult with an injured shoulder working out in the gym

If nothing seems to work in shifting the last few kilos, speak to your doctor or ask yourself if your goal is too much of a stretch for your body. Appreciate the achievements you have made and continue your new lifestyle to maintain your weight.

Consistency is the Key

You can’t expect to see results if you have a huge workout session one day then do nothing for the next three days. Consistently showing up to do the exercise is how you will achieve success. Aim to do at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. Thirty minutes isn’t too long that you feel you’re committing a chunk of your day to exercise. If you do more than half an hour, it’s a bonus.

There’s a Workout For You 

Not everyone loves sweating it up at the gym or doing a group PT class at the local park. If you want success in achieving your goals, find one or more forms of exercise that you enjoy and will keep up with.

Middle aged woman doing an aerobics workout after an injury

You might need to try a variety of exercises and sport to find something you’re willing to stick with. Few people can continue doing an activity they hate for months on end even when they have an eye on the prize. There will be an activity that you at least dislike less than others!

You Need to Be Organised for Success

There are days when you can’t be bothered. You won’t want to get out of bed early, you’ll want to grab a pre-prepared meal instead of cooking and you might feel like giving it away because you’re not seeing results. But hang in there.

A large part of not being bothered to do the hard yards is because you’re not organised. If you lay out your training clothes and get your water bottle ready the night before, you won’t have to do any thinking before you leave the house in the morning. You just need to get dressed and go.

Close-up hands of a woman writing out a meal plan

If you spend two hours on the weekend making a meal plan for the week ahead and buying the ingredients you need, cooking won’t seem as big a chore. Everything you need is in the fridge and pantry so you just need to pull it together in a meal.

If you review your goals and exercise plan regularly, you’re more likely to succeed. Be disciplined about being organised and you’ll be kicking goals.

Be Sure to Celebrate Your Wins 

When you’re doing well with your fitness and eating habits, don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back. Celebrating your hard work gives you the motivation to keep going.

Young woman journaling while looking out the window

If you find it hard to remember what you did last week or even yesterday, keep a journal and record details of your exercise and healthy eating so you can look back over it. When you’re having a bad day or week, remind yourself that you can start over and repeat what you did on the good days. Commit to never give up on your goals. It’s not a race and it doesn’t matter how long it takes to get to the end.

You Won’t Always Feel Like Eating Healthy

If you indulged a little too much during your recovery, now is the time to make healthy food choices. By watching what you eat, you can shed the extra kilos.

Start by cleaning out the pantry of foods that don’t fit with your healthy eating regime. Write out a plan for the healthy meal and snack choices you intend to make from now on. Stock the fridge and pantry with these foods and make sure they are within easy reach. If you want to eat more fresh vegetables as snack foods, cut up the celery, carrots and capsicum and store them in the fridge so you don’t have to prepare them when you’re hungry.

For meal choices, cut down on the carbs. Eat less pasta, potato and bread and replace them with lean protein and vegetables. If sweet snacks are your downfall during the day, swap them with no sugar yoghurt or fresh fruit.

Don’t make the mistake of skipping meals to lose weight. You want your metabolism working at its optimum level so keep eating your healthy options throughout the day. Your metabolism may have slowed during your injury, especially if you lost muscle mass.

You Might Need Professional Help

At the risk of putting you off trying, chances are getting back into shape won’t be easy. You can tackle it on your own or you can find professional or non-professional help to achieve your goal and, if you haven’t already, get your life back on track.

Male physiotherapist examining a patients elbow

GP Clearance Before you Start

If you suffered a serious injury or you have done no exercise for a while, you might need to gain clearance from your GP before taking up any exercise to ensure you don’t reinjure yourself. You might need to purchase special equipment or gain advice on where to begin. Doing too much in the early days can set back your recovery.

Physio or Physiologist Advice on Exercise

A physiotherapist or exercise physiologist can help you with ideal exercises you can do to get started so you don’t further injure yourself. You may work on a plan with your therapist to achieve your fitness goals. The plan can help you work around a weak joint or muscle so it doesn’t hold you back in exercising and achieving your optimum level of fitness.

Dietician’s Help with Food Choices

If you think you may encounter difficulty with shifting excess weight, you might benefit from seeing a dietician. They can help with preparing a meal plan that can encourage you to prepare healthy meals and snacks that will help shift the weight sustainably. Going on a crash diet is often a dangerous option for losing weight quickly but you may find you put it all back on (and some more) as soon as you go back to your normal diet.  

A dietician sitting down with a patient and creating a easy to follow meal plan

Rehabilitation Consultant for Your Return to Work 

If your injury saw you unable to work for a period, you may need help with a plan for your return to work. For those people who have been away from the workplace for an extended time, they may need to start back slow and build up to their pre-injury hours.

For some people returning to their old role or some tasks may not be possible. They may not have the strength needed to do manual tasks or they risk reinjuring themselves. A tailored return to work plan may include details about modifying tasks, changing the layout of the workstation or workplace, how to increase mobility and physical capacity and psychological support.

Psychologist Mental Health Assistance

For many people, their injury has taken away much more than their body shape. An injury can isolate you from family, friends and colleagues. Reduced mobility can cause frustration and concern for their future health and wellbeing. Medical costs and time away from work may have caused financial concerns. These factors can weigh on a person’s mental health. And many experience difficulties losing weight or regaining fitness levels until they have sought treatment for their low mood or depression. A mental illness can make it difficult to find the motivation needed to lose weight.

Guidance of a Personal Trainer

It’s hard training on your own. Many people who have achieved their fitness goals have attributed some of the success to their personal trainer or coach. If you’re still plagued by your injury, be sure to tell your trainer so they can change the exercises to suit your requirements.

Male exercising in a park with a personal trainer

If you don’t want to do one on one or group classes but you think motivation could be a problem, consider exercising with a friend regularly. You will be less likely to skip a session if someone else is relying on you to show up.

Tell at least one friend or family member of your goal to get in shape. You may be more inclined to hold yourself accountable if you’re providing them with progress updates of your exercise regime.

Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself

Our bodies are conditioned to hold on to any extra kilos (or conditioning) we may have gained. Generations ago when food wasn’t as plentiful as it is today, it was important to have a little extra fat stored for lean times so they didn’t starve. With easy access to food, we don’t need this survival mode but our bodies haven’t evolved.

Few people snap back to their old body shape after weeks or months of being unable to do much but let an injury heal. Maybe you could have regained your old shape in record time when you were in your early 20s but if those years are well behind you, it’s not so easy. Stick with your plan and you’ll see results.

Tammy George

Please note: Tammy's blog is general advice only. For further information on this topic please consult your healthcare professional.

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