Dealing with Injuries & Setbacks

Cue the theme music from “Chariots of Fire” as you cross the finish line of your first run, reach a major weight loss milestone or complete a Boot Camp course much leaner and less meaner than before. Shucks, it’s all going to be easy street now that you’ve got your momentum going – right?  Well, not-so-much when injuries or physical setbacks strike, causing the equivalent of a ten car pile-up on your wellness journey. That’s why I wanted to share some helpful advice from fitness enthusiasts who have weathered setbacks and continue to move forward.

Adopting healthier habits helped Meegan Dowe of the Redstar5 blog lose 120 pounds. She could run a 10k without walking and had started to pursue weight lifting until getting hit by a truck last November while walking in a crosswalk. The Halifax, Nova Scotia resident suffered soft tissue damage in her left arm and hip, with additional symptoms emerging in her arm due to an impinged elbow nerve and thoracic outlet syndrome. Nothing has been the same since.

Meegan has been on short-term disability, away from working a job she loves. Rehab was frustrating, though acupuncture and a few other treatments have helped. She is still not back to her pre-injury strength and has difficulty running consistently. But her healthy habits have mostly continued, with support from spouse Tara, a fellow 120 pound success story. The 20 pounds Meegan regained is now coming off again as she realizes that healing is much more than a physical process. Treatment and time is helping her recovery slowly but surely advance.

“My advice for anyone who has been injured is to remember first and foremost to be patient since healing takes time,” says Meegan.  “Injured or not, we are not broken. Allow yourself to feel the pain and mourn what has been lost; there is a grieving process, a very active one. Talk to someone. It will help more than you know to seek the support.”

One week from her second half-marathon, Jen Newman of the Listen, Learn, Love Mend blog felt her knee pop during a 10-mile training run. Experienced with previous knee injuries, she immediately saw an orthopedic surgeon, who recommended physical therapy. Then she tripped over a dog toy in her living room, causing an ankle sprain on top of everything else. Surgery was needed to repair all of the damage.  Off her feet for eight weeks, she went to physical therapy for months and still isn’t in pre-injury shape. Jen admits that she has been part of the problem, not keeping up with therapeutic exercises, overdoing it at the gym and not taking care of herself properly mentally or physically. But now she’s gotten out of her own head, dropped the self-pity and self-sabotage and is seeing real progress.

“Never give up,” urges Jen. “An injury is not the end of something but the start of a new adventure. Take time to listen to your body as it heals and do what is right for you.  Beating yourself up will only prolong recovery. If you stay positive, loving and gentle with yourself, you will be stronger on the other side of that injury.”

If you know hilarious, feisty fitness expert Alexandra Williams of the Fun and Fit blog, it will come as no surprise that she posted this video about exercising on one leg the week following her foot surgery.  She shares these tips for dealing with injuries and setbacks:


  1. Always check with your doctor after experiencing physical pain or injuries. If you are cleared medically for activity, then start thinking about ways to exercise anything except the healing part of your body. For example, people recuperating from knee surgery can still work their upper body.
  2. Find people who will provide encouragement and support as you engage in the physical activities your body can handle.
  3. Have confidence that you will still be a strong person, although it might look different.
  4. Be prepared for impacts that aren’t just physical. Mental aspects can come into play with changes with mood, attitude and energy levels.

Have you ever experienced an injury or physical setback? How did you handle it, and what was the outcome?



  1. This is such a good article, Shira. So encouraging to hear from people who’ve been there (love Alexandra’s vid)! And the advice is spot on. After a long winter of successful muscle-building, I acquired tennis elbow last April. It took a full 2 1/2 months for it to heal, all the while me watching the muscles I worked so hard for shrink. I’m just now starting to see results again, but that darn elbow is still something I have to watch. I will bookmark this and come back to it if/when the next problem arises.

    • Thanks Suzanne! I consider you to be an elite athlete, and I know it was very frustrating to have your mobility limited. Glad you are seeing results again!

  2. First of all, thanks for including me and my video. That was kind of you. Secondly, this is a perfectly-timed post, as I need all the info & encouragement I can get. Just as we have to move “smart,” we need to recover “smart” too. Well-written.

    • i love that video – it perfectly shows how someone can always find a way to overcome obstacles. Thanks for sharing your expertise!

  3. Ohhhh, my heart goes out to Meegan! And to Jen and Alexandra and everyone else who’s been through some form of orthopedic surgery.

    Rehab is a near and dear topic to me because at this time last year, I was wearing a cast and using crutches after extensive surgery on my ankle. I did manage to stay somewhat active (my husband drove me to the gym twice a week, and I went for semi-regular crutch-walks in the neighborhood), but the process of being housebound and more or less incapacitated for 12 weeks was hard to take mentally.

    I agree with Alexandra—exercising what I *could* definitely helped me physically and mentally. I felt like something of a dork, crutching around the gym (try carrying a pair of dumbbells when you’re on crutches), but people were extremely nice and encouraging.

    • Crutch-walks and strength training despite being in a cast is a terrific example of perseverance! Glad you are much better now!

  4. Injury is so tough because not only do you lose the physical benefits of exercise you lose the mental ones as well. It’s hard losing a part of your identity as an athlete and the positive effects on your mental state. But as she says, Never Give Up. Your fitness routine may not look like it did before but if you’re committed you will find your way to continue on the journey.

    • The mental part is the hardest in my book – my personality changed, and not for the better, when I couldn’t work out for big chunks of 2010!

  5. The worst error I have seen people committing when injured is trying to get back into full swing too early. Yes, not being able to work out sucks, but if you go the route of just trying to ignore the pain, that can spell permanent damage and that might take you out of the loop forever.

    In my opinion, if we workout for the workout’s sake, despite our bodies giving us clear signals that that at the moment won’t be a good idea, we are forgetting the essential reason why we went into fitness in the first place: to become healthier.


  1. […] you have had an injury or setback of some sort, first read this post by our friend Shira, then let us know how you dealt with your […]