How to Motivate Yourself to Stay in Shape after a Serious Injury

A serious injury can drain motivation from a person very quickly. Chronic pain and physical weakness are strong influences to stay at home on the couch. The news that a former lifestyle or sport can no longer be accommodated triggers grief, anger and denial.

Adhering to a plan and a goal are essential to the recovery of mobility and perhaps to the embrace of a new lifestyle.


Resting an injury can become very boring, and temptation to sabotage healing is strong. A person who was most fit before the injury is often plagued with fears of becoming completely out of shape, losing strength and being sidelined for a lifetime. This is specious reasoning. The body requires rest to heal from any illness or injury. Realize that chronic re-injury will certainly shoot down any plans for recovery.

Yes, weight gain is a serious problem. Although it is blithely mentioned that an inactive person should just ‘eat less’, the boredom factor in inactivity is strong. Therefore, part of any rehabilitation plan needs to include the recognition of this possibility and incorporating interesting activities in the day to circumvent overeating.

Emotional Upset

Serious injury can close a door in a person’s life without warning. The only way out is through another door, but first, the grief and anger of loss is to be expected.

Do not beat yourself up with negative thoughts. It is normal to be depressed and upset over loss. Self-criticism has a way of becoming self-fulfilling. When self-criticism threatens to overwhelm you, make a list and detail every reason why someone would consider you a good and accomplished human being. This is an effective way of reigning in out-of-control thoughts that are not productive.

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Treat yourself with kindness. Suppose you were attempting to aid and comfort someone with your injury. How would you treat this person? Very likely, you would use kind words and patience.

Stalled Emotions

Grief over loss is normal, but sometimes a snag arises and a person is unable to move beyond the grieving stage and into the motivational stage of recovery. If such is the case, choose a particular date and make a mental commitment to move on to physical rehabilitation and new life on that day. If this is not going to work, seek help from a qualified professional to get yourself back on track.

Getting Physical

Participate in physical rehabilitation with the knowledge that the return of physical abilities often surpasses that predicted by authorities on the subject. Understand that pushing the body beyond limitations will not hasten recovery, but will possibly slow it. Keep an open mind about changes in ability and seek new ways to accommodate that. For instance, if you now must use a wheelchair, consider ordering a manual wheelchair to increase your activity and seek out wheelchair friendly sports to keep yourself in the game.

If you can embark upon a new sport, realize that learning the sport is key to the seamless performance you had at your command in your previous sport of expertise. That ability took time to gain proficiency, about 10,000 hours.

New Horizons

The world is a huge place, offering an entirely new arena outside of your previous lifestyle. This is not a denial of your loss and frustration with a serious injury, but a strong motivational impetus towards opening a new door to new pathways. Make a list of activities you have never participated in and find fun or rewarding. Reconnect with old friends. You may need to discuss your injury and new lifestyle. Honesty is always appreciated, and often cements friendships.

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You’re out there, so take the leap forward!