Everyone knows getting injured is physically painful – but only a handful of people realize how heavy an injury weighs on your mental health. Staying motivated while you heal and recover is no easy task. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to keep your head in the game until you can get your body in it as well. If you’re feeling like your injury is beating you both physically and mentally, here are seven ways to stay motivated while recovering from an injury; use them right, and, before you know it, you’ll be in the best shape and ready to play!
1. Set different goals for a different situation
You can’t expect to live the same way now that you’re injured. For that reason alone, you need to change your goals for the foreseeable future. Let’s put it this way: if you’re an Olympic weightlifter with an ACL tear, you’re not going to squat heavy weights any time soon. Sure, it’s fundamental for your sport – but doing so will be impossible for now, so you need to focus on something else in the meantime.
This is where you flip the script. Instead of focusing on your sport of choice, set goals for other areas of your life. Try new things and set new goals. The key here is to keep your mind occupied with something useful, not dwelling on the goals you’re not going to accomplish for now. The first keeps you on track; the latter will derail your mental game sooner or later. Try a new hobby like learning a new language, or fine-tune your eating habits, or maybe learn a new skill related to your job.
2. Get a new perspective on your progress
When you’re injured, it’s easy to think about how much progress you’re not making (and, even worse, how much of it you’re losing). But that’s a lie! Or, at least, a misconception. If you have a broken bone, a sprained ligament, or anything at all, your only progress is related to that injury. The only way to move forward is by healing – and when that happens, pat yourself on the back. That’s real progress!
Sure, it’s going to be hard not to think you’re not training as you wanted – but, right now, your training is recovery-related. Making progress there is more important than any other improvement you’ve ever done before. You have to get excited for every little thing – because every little thing counts! And every little bit will put you closer to a full recovery. That’s enough of a reason to stay motivated.
3. Shed light on CAN, not on CAN’T
After an injury happens, certain things are off-limits. You have to forget about every single action that will hinder your path to recovery. And there’s a reason for that. You don’t want to get tempted into injuring yourself worse than before. If you have to rest for 30 days, that’s 30 days where you can’t train – and you have to convince yourself of that.
There are going to be a couple of free hours in your weekly schedule after realizing that. They can’t stay free while you’re recovering. Figure out what you can do and do it as much as you can. That way, you won’t think about your injury. Or not as much, at least.
Sure, doing other things won’t be the same as training – but the goal here is to keep your mind occupied; that way, your mind won’t wander off and feel terrible about your bad knee, shoulder, or any other ailment. In doing so, you won’t lose any motivation!
4. Don’t lose your focus on everything else
Training and recovery are similar in so many ways. Two of their most important aspects are the same, for example. We’re talking about eating and sleeping. They are crucial – and they are both often overlooked when you’re feeling blue from your injury. The worst part is, when you get depressed, you often neglect nutrition and resting – and, in doing so, you get worse, mentally and physically.
You need to pay attention to both of these things as if you were in the championship rounds (and you are, recovery-wise). Doing so will ensure that you have a solid base to recover from your injury – and your mental health won’t take a dive, giving you a better chance to stay motivated.
5. Try low-impact exercise for a big challenge
Even though you’re injured, it doesn’t mean you’re out of the game entirely. If you’re a competitive person, you’re still going to miss that edge from besting yourself and others, no matter how distracted you get. You’ll have to find low-impact alternatives to scratch that itch you have. There’s no way around it. Otherwise, you’ll slowly lose motivation.
If your lower-body is doing okay, walking is the perfect way to exercise and not strain anything while you’re at it. You can also try swimming if your body can take it. Hiking is good too. Kettlebell swings are great for gym-addicts who can’t get under a heavy barbell yet. Then again, every single injury is unique – and you have to figure out what’s the best alternative for you.
6. Don’t play yet – but stay involved
Most sports have a community surrounding them. Even if you play an individual sport, you often have people around you when you train. You’re never alone! For example:
- If you’re a powerlifter, you probably go to a powerlifting gym full of people who think about deadlifting all the time, as you do.
- If you train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you probably go to a dojo with other fighters who can’t go a day without thinking about armbars, just like you.
- If you’re a golfer, you probably miss the green field, the sunny evenings, and your golfing buddies who are out there playing 18 holes without you.
But you don’t have to quit every single aspect of a sport because you can’t play it. You can still visit your powerlifting gym, or drop by the dojo, or join your friends on the golf course, or even join online forums where you talk about your injury and other people’s injuries and how they are getting through it.
As long as you stay involved in the community, you won’t miss the sport as much. Being there is half the effort. And, for now, the other half is recovering from your injury.