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6 Steps to help you stay focused and motivated while recovering from an injury

Updated: Feb 15, 2023

It’s very easy to lose motivation and just sit on the couch and sulk when you’re struggling with an injury that is taking a long time to get better. You would think that anyone who loves sport will naturally work tirelessly at getting better. But the problem is that a lot of injuries can feel as if they will never get better and progress can be excruciatingly slow. Unfortunately sitting on the couch often just makes your mood darker and definitely does not help your body to recover. In this article I share the 6 steps that I’ve identified through the years that help my patients stay focused and motivated while recovering.

6 Steps to help you stay focused and motivated while recovering from an injury

In this article:

  • Step 1: Where do you want to get to?

  • Step 2: Do NOT create a deadline

  • Step 3: Where are you now?

  • Step 4: Identify mini-steps

  • Step 5: Keep a diary

  • Step 6: Check in with someone on a regular basis

Here's the video I did about this:

Step 1: Where do you want to get to?

Write down exactly what sport or activity you would like to get back to doing. Be very specific. For instance, if you would like to get back to running, how far and fast and how often do you want to be running?

This is very important because you need to slowly strengthen your body over time to be able to achieve this goal and you won’t know what you have to do if you don’t know exactly what it is that you want to achieve.

Step 2: Do NOT create a deadline

This may sound strange. Is the point of having a goal not to set a date by which you would like to achieve it by? Not when it comes to injuries.

When it comes to recovering from an injury, the worst thing you can do is book a race for in 6 months’ time thinking that it will keep your motivated. Having a deadline like that hanging over your head can often make you push when actually you should be taking an easy day or changing tack.

Injuries never follow a linear line of improvement – you will always have small set-backs and you have to allow yourself the time to take a step back when needed.

Step 3: Where are you now?

Make a list of all the things that you can do at the moment. Again, be very specific e.g. I can walk 500 metres, stand for 20 minutes, do bodyweight squats only etc.

This list has 2 functions. Firstly it is a nice baseline to identify the areas you have to work on and secondly it can be an extremely good motivational tool to look back to a few weeks later.

Step 4: Identify mini-steps

Take a look at all the activities that you can currently do and work out how you can slowly build on them in order to achieve your final goal. You may need the help of a physio or other exercise specialist with this bit.

For example before you can jog you need strong legs and pain free walking. Work out a programme to strengthen your legs and slowly increase your walking. This may take several months. You should ideally break this down even further e.g. I need to be able to do 3 x15 pistol squats etc. Once you can walk without restriction and your legs have a base strength the next step would be to incorporate jumping and a run/walk programme. From there one would progress to continuous jog and then finally you would add in some speed work and harder sessions.

I remember having an adductor tendinopathy a few years ago and my first run back was just 400 metres! I felt really silly but just persevered because I could feel that it was just enough for my tendon and knew that the strength gains from that short run was helping it to recover. By the end of that month I managed to do 5km.

Consulting a physio online allows you to access expert sports injury treatment that is convenient and affordable. Follow the link to learn more.

Step 5: Keep a diary

Keep short notes on when you feel pain or discomfort as well as what training you’re doing. It can be extremely good motivation when you look back and realise that some of your aches and pains had disappeared but that it had happened so gradually that you’d not noticed. For example that you can now sleep in any position without pain or you can now do squats with extra weight or you can walk 40min when you could only do 15 a few weeks back.

People often disregard these small improvements because they think that they have no obvious link to their overall goal, but they are all signs that you’re getting better! Remember, recovery is all about taking small steps forward and you have to acknowledge the small victories if you want to stay motivated.

Step 6: Check in with someone on a regular basis

Make sure that you discuss your progress with someone else on a regular basis. This does not have to be a physio but it has to be someone who is good at listening. Their job is to help you acknowledge your progress and put things in perspective.

When you’re the one stuck in a specific situation it can be difficult to notice things that are quite obvious to other people who are looking in from outside.

Need more help with your injury? You’re welcome to consult one of the team at SIP online via video call for an assessment of your injury and a tailored treatment plan.

About the Author

Maryke Louw is a chartered physiotherapist with more than 15 years' experience and a Masters Degree in Sports Injury Management. Follow her on LinkedIn, ResearchGate.


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