How To Rediscover Your Fitness After Surgery Or Injury

Working on you fitness after surgery or injury requires a lot of patience and dedication – the last thing you want to do is end up back at square one or worse! If youve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that back in December 2015 I had reconstructive ligament surgery on my left ankle. With a lot of help from my physiotherapist (and a lot more from friends and family) it looks like I’m finally out of the woods!

I’ve got a couple more assessments but I’m hoping I’ll be signed out and given the all clear at the end of February. If you’re in the same spot as me and need to start working on your fitness after surgery or following a serious injury, these guidelines will help you on your path to recovery!

How To Rediscover Your Fitness After Surgery Or Injury


Preparation Is Key

Do you remember the first time you ever set foot in a gym? I do – a jarring mix of nervousness and excitement colliding into a ball of confusing energy. I bring it up because after some time off from the gym, you have to make sure you’re ready to get back inside and get to work.

Before you even consider picking up a dumbbell, you can get your body ready for fitness after surgery or an injury though exercises that are relatively easy on your body. Swimming, cross trainers and exercise bikes are all great examples which don’t place a heavy load on your body and can gradually build in intensity.

Nutrition is also very important. You still have to fuel yourself so you can workout effectively, just like you did before. Hydration is important too, so drink plenty of water.

Never Skip A Warm Up

Warming up prepares your body for exercise – gradually increasing your heart rate, stimulating blood flow to the muscles and lubricating your joints. All things you knew already. When you’re working on regaining your fitness after surgery or an injury, having to go back to basics can be a blessing in disguise.


Making time to warm up is key because it’s easy to fall back into old habits and jump right back in with heavy loads and high intensities. Not warming up might be one of the reasons you were injured in the first place!

Take It Slow

Just in case you skipped over the end of the last section, I’m going to say it again: it’s easy to fall back into old habits. You might have been able to deadlift 200KGs before you were sidelined, however if you’ve had weeks or even months off you won’t be able to smash through any personal bests straight away.

Fortunately, you’re not starting from scratch either! You’ll still have retained some strength and thanks to muscle memory your technique won’t have magically disappeared. The best way to approach your fitness after surgery is to use your old personal bests as your new target goals. They are your benchmark and you can work your way up to them from a manageable level – consider starting at as low as 50% of your one-rep maximum and build from there.

Listen To Your Body

You’ve heard the expression ‘eyes bigger than your stomach’, right? The same thing applies here, except we are talking about your appetite to pick up really heavy things. If you’re into exercise then chances are you like pushing yourself to see how far you can go, feeling pride when you break mental and physical barriers.


No, this isnt me and no, Im not suggesting you drop to such an extremely low weight. I just found this picture funny!

You’ll need to rein it in for a while though as when you’re recovering from something serious, pushing your physical limits too far could ultimately end up with you doing some serious damage to your body.

Once you’re ready, by all means push hard. Just don’t be afraid to walk away if you can feel that what you’re doing is going to do more harm than good. Living to fight another day is a much better option than never fighting again.

As a closing thought, before you do anything written here you should make sure you’ve got the green light from your doctor, surgeon or physiotherapist. It might be agonising to wait around when you feel fine – just remember they do know what they’re talking about!

My physiotherapist likes to use the analogy of cement – it can look set on the surface but once you break through it still needs more time to fully harden. Not perfect but I’m sure you can see my point!

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