July 2023

Working Out After an Injury: 7 Tips for Getting Back Into Fitness Safely

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Working Out After an Injury: 7 Tips for Getting Back Into Fitness Safely

Whether you’re a seasoned exerciser, or someone who is just getting back into a regular exercise routine, it’s likely you’ve crossed paths with an injury over the course of your fitness journey. No matter how major or miniscule, injuries can really throw us into a tailspin. From pulled hamstrings to rolled ankles, each injury comes with its own set of challenges. In fact, the top three most common injuries for those who live active lifestyles are sprains, strains, and fractures. While some of these common injuries require only minimal time to rehabilitate, others might take weeks or even months to fully heal.

Many times, having to take a break from our favorite workout can be more painful than the injury itself. According to Shape.com, just two to four weeks without physical activity leads to a significant loss of muscle strength and mass, but the mental impact is almost immediate, which is why it’s crucial to prioritize mental, social, AND physical health during your rehabilitation. The good news is that exercising after an injury is not only possible, it might even aid in your recovery when done properly and safely.

So just how do you approach working out after an injury? The key is to start small, be intentional, and focus on what you can do, instead of what you can’t. Author and Health & Fitness Editor Alexa Tucker suggests getting back into fitness slowly with small, achievable goals so you don’t overwhelm yourself. Pushing too hard too soon can make you feel defeated, or worse, put you at risk for reinjury. Instead, identify what types of movement feel safe and use modifications to strengthen areas that are comfortable to exercise. Listening to your body is KEY, and placing an emphasis on proper technique also helps to ensure you avoid setbacks when returning to exercise. 

Feeling extra sore, or experiencing pain when you workout? These are great ways to identify you’ve pushed too hard. Staying in a pain-free range is essential when exercising after an injury, and minimal soreness means you’re on the road to a healthy recovery. 

Your mindset? Yep, that matters, too! The more you can lean into positive self-talk with phrases like “I’m strong, I’ve totally got this,” and “It’s temporary, I can use this time to recharge,” the better equipped you’ll be to overcome the injury and return to exercise with ease.

If dance cardio is your feel-good exercise of choice, we totally understand why you may be missing the dance floor. Jazzercise President, CEO, and Instructor, Shanna Missett Nelson, was recently sidelined after badly injuring her foot while walking to get ice cream with her family. She broke her fifth metatarsal all the way through…and never even got the ice cream! As a fitness professional and industry leader, she drew upon her expertise, and quickly focused her efforts on how to stay fit while injured. From modified workouts in a chair, to core and upper-body focused exercise, she carefully worked her way back to classes, and soon after, back to the stage. 

We were so inspired by Shanna’s recovery, that we sat down with her to learn more about her approach to recovery, and what tips she would offer anyone returning to exercise after an injury.

After your injury, what inspired you to keep moving?

I kept moving because I LOVE to work out. I knew I needed to stay as fit as possible while healing, so that when I came back, I wouldn’t have such a big hill to climb. I also needed to keep moving for my mental health. Movement is medicine for me, and it helps me a lot with stress and anxiety.

How did you approach returning to exercise?

I rested for the first week or so when the pain was acute. Then, I slowly went back to working out in any way that my body would allow. At six weeks, I started physical therapy to regain strength in my calf and to develop range of motion in my foot.

What did the process of getting back to the stage look like for you?

Getting back on the stage was gradual…exercising after an injury is definitely a process! I started getting back into fitness carefully by taking class in a chair, and incorporated as much activity as I could that wasn’t weight bearing. Once the boot was off, I continued to modify movements and listen to my body. When I was confident and had the doctor’s okay, I taught my first class back on stage (strength training only) with another instructor. A full week later, I taught a whole class myself (Sculpt with intervals) and chose my choreography with the intention of minimizing risk.

How did Jazzercise impact your recovery?

Because my body was so strong at the time of my injury, I found that I was able to perform many tasks – like moving around on crutches or navigating the scooter – pretty easily. Getting in and out of the shower or bath, getting out of the car, transporting my scooter…all of these things would have been so much harder if I hadn’t already been so fit from Jazzercise. My arms, core, and legs were so strong that I was able to do most of what I wanted or needed to do, even though I had a broken bone.

In your experience, do you think regular exercise plays a role in injury prevention and the recovery process?

Being fit not only makes working out after an injury more manageable, it also makes the process of recovery and rehab so much easier. Once you start moving again, that muscle memory kicks in, and your body is like, “I know what to do!” Exercising regularly plays a HUGE part in your ability to recover from injury or sickness, and I am so grateful for my fitness level.

Shanna’s Tips for Recovery

  1. Get back in the room: If you like group exercise and you feel up to it, get back into a class as quickly as possible. Mental health is the first thing that can suffer when your workout is taken away from you.
  2. Stick to a schedule: An injury can leave you feeling completely out of control, so attending your regular classes and maintaining a consistent schedule helps you to feel more empowered.
  3. Modify your workout: Working out after an injury doesn’t have to look completely different, just make sure to modify appropriately! Sit in a chair to exercise and limit weight bearing. Focus on upper-body movements (especially for a lower-body injury). If your upper body is injured, stand, and limit upper-body movements. Just keep moving!
  4. Focus on the core: Sit on the floor (if you are able) and actively work on your core strength. Having a strong core is SO important if you are on crutches or a scooter, or if upper-body movements are limited in any way.
  5. Fuel your body: When exercising after an injury, fueling your body is KEY. Make sure you are eating a lot of protein to replenish tissues and keep your metabolism active. Limiting calories can actually be detrimental to your healing (especially for ligaments and tendons). When it comes to bones, calcium is crucial, so talk to your doctor to ensure you are getting what you need daily.
  6. Try something new: There are so many benefits to trying new things, and now’s the perfect time to explore a new activity. Low-impact exercises like yoga, walking, and even strength training, may help you to feel challenged and engaged.
  7. Lean in to self-care: Maintaining a good self-care regimen is so important, especially when your workout is a big part of your self-care routine! If you have access to a sauna, hot tub, or even a massage—use it!

Injury is painful, both physically and mentally. While your typical movements might need modification, simply getting back into your routine and feeling the support of your fitness community will do wonders for your mental health. When the time comes to lace up and tackle that first workout after an injury, make sure to start small and keep it light. Focus on proper form when returning to exercise and resist the urge to push past your limits. Stay positive, and celebrate those wins! With careful, consistent effort, you’ll be back to your favorite workout in no time.


Congrats on your achievement toward recovery. I was pleased to know if injured we have the ability to use a chair. I have done this in the past and it is helpful. I was able to get a good workout. Thank you. 🤩
7/13/2023 10:36:53 PM

Sylvia Kasparian
Thank you so much for your “tips”. Really helpful since I recently had tendon repair in my foot. After surgery and being in a cast for a month, I am now wearing a walking boot. I am also keeping up with core exercises. Worse part not able to go to class.
7/13/2023 9:56:07 PM

Jeanne Mosher
I am an avid JAZZERCISER! 7 years ago I was getting on my jet ski at Smith Mountain Lake. I pushed the start button and the next thing I remember is hearing the rotor blades of the helicopter that was taking me to the hospital! My jet ski had a gas leak and the battery sparked and it blew up! My injuries were: concussion, 2 broken vertebrae, 5 pelvic fractures, compound fracture of my left ankle and removal of a bleeding spleen. I was in the hospital and rehab for 3 weeks. With the help of rehab and my wonderful Jazzercise instructor, Jill Muccino , I was back in class in 3 months…..I still go to about 7 classes a week and have no recurring pain. I am positive that dancing and staying in motion has helped me tremendously! Thank you Jazzercise! I agree with everything Shanna has said about recovering from injuries! ♥️
7/13/2023 8:57:04 PM

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