Staying Positive Through an Exercise Setback

I’m excited for a fun discussion below, so let’s breeze through lunch!

I enjoyed quite a tasty midday meal that started with a bed of delicious fettuccine noodles.

Lots o' Pasta

Add a bunch of broccoli slaw and a heaping helping of Newman’s Own Sockarooni pasta sauce to the mix and you’ve got yourself one heck of a yummy noodle bowl!

Broccoli + Noodles + Sauce

Close Up

I inhaled that bad boy! I love pasta and red sauce oh-so-much. ๐Ÿ˜€

Staying Positive Through an Exercise Setback or Injury

Time for another reader’s request!

If you’ve been working out for a significant amount of time, chances are something has occurred in your life to cause you to experience an exercise set back. Maybe you sprained an ankle. Perhaps you pulled your hamstring. Whatever it is, experiencing a setback can make it hard to keep your head up while adjusting to the adversity you’re facing.

In the Words of Tupac, "Keep Ya Head Up!"

As someone who has overcome a setback or two (hip bursitis and most recently a bruised heel), here are my tips for maintaining a positive attitude through an injury or other setback:

  • See a Professional Doctor: If that little voice in your head is telling you to go see a doctor, listen. You know if you’re experiencing a small injury or a serious one that warrants the opinion and advice of an expert. Seeing a doctor soon after you experience an injury can help you understand what’s going on and begin the healing process with the help of a professional. They may provide you with a plan for recovery which will help you feel like you’re tackling your setback head on.
  • Seek a Second Opinion: When I had bursitis in my hip a couple of years ago, I found it very hard to remain positive. It hurt to run and it hurt to walk. I literally couldn’t even walk a quarter of a mile without experiencing severe pain in my hip. When I first visited the on-campus doctor at my college, they gave me steroids and basically told me to avoid anything physical. It wasn’t until I got a second opinion from a doctor much more familiar with sports-related injuries (he actually worked with the Tampa Bay Bucs), that I learned that my injury was completely treatable with lots and lots of stretching… no medication needed! He showed me various stretches I could do but also gave me the okay to do low-impact exercise (like the elliptical), which made me so happy.
  • Focus on What You Can Do: It’s so easy to harp on what we cannot do, but don’t forget how lucky you are to be able to do the things you can do. Though I was not allowed to run or take group exercise classes that required a lot of jumping when I was injured, I was able to swim, ride a bike, do the elliptical and also engage in some light strength training. All of these options are still wonderful ways to get your heart rate up. Some time away from your favorite activities will only make you love and appreciate them more once you are healed.

I Can't Run, But I Can Swim (and Look Like a FOOL!)

  • Look for Fitness in Everyday Life: Sometimes injuries prevent us from hitting the gym or pounding the pavement, but many times we’re still capable of enjoying every day athletic activities like biking around the neighborhood, swimming at the pool with friends or hittin’ the dance floor at a club (<– do this with caution ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). Don’t discount these as great workouts.

Dancin', Dancin', Dancin'


Canoeing (Can you tell Ryan did all the work?)

  • Vent and Be Angry: I can honestly tell you I cried to Ryan numerous times when I had bursitis in my hip and couldn’t even walk without pain. I was beyond frustrated and annoyed that my everyday routine was flipped upside down. It’s only natural to be upset and angry when adversity smacks you in the face. Be angry and be annoyed. Accept these feelings, but don’t dwell on them. Even though you may not be able to run, you are still able to enjoy other things in life, like your family and friends.
  • Use it as an Opportunity to Eat Better: If you can’t expend lots of energy in the gym, try putting some extra effort into your healthy eating. Use the time away from exercise as an excuse to get more creative in the kitchen and concentrate on creating delicious, healthy meals like French toast strips with raspberry filling.

French Toast Strips

Have you ever experienced an injury or setback that prevented you from enjoying your normal exercise routine? How did you handle it?


  1. Carrie says

    Agreed, Ju, dancing is a workout….. I see you failed to include the rest of the crowd in our dancing picture?! haha What a great night ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. Amanda Davis says

    Thanks for the great advice…I’m currently working through some leg pain and taking a few days off which is really difficult for me but I’m working through it.


  3. says

    In college I played softball. Just as our season was starting I got in a car accident and ended up with a broken foot. It was the hardest thing ever to go through. Watching my team play and knowing there was no way I was going to get in the game was horrible. All I could do was support my team, try to stay positive and rest. It was nice to be able to slow down and concentrate on other things going on in my life. It ended up being a good break, but it was still torture that I couldn’t play!! The best thing that came out of it was that I was super motivated as soon as up and moving again.


  4. Diane says

    Perfect timing and great advice! I sprained my ankle last week and could finally run on it a little bit today. It was so frustrating to not be able to move and use my body they way I wanted to. (Can’t I burn some calories just by having the desire to exercise?!?)

    The positive is that I realized what a gift it is to be healthy and able to exercise. That’s great motivation to take care of myself.


  5. says

    I’m currently having hip issues right now just on one side. It has been acting up for about 2.5 months . I took two weeks off but it still hurts. I’m thinking I need to see a doctor but I have fears of doctors.


  6. says

    I couldn’t do a thing when I had plantar fascitis this summer. I was really bummed out! Luckily it didn’t last long. I’m allergic to chlorine, so I can’t swim in the pool at my gym. I did try and eat much healthier since I couldn’t do much.


  7. says

    I’m going through it right now, it’s horrible! I’ve been off running for months after developing serious runners knee after a marathon. My problem is I used to just go out the front door and run, and I find it more difficult to get the motivation get in my car and drive to the gym to do the elliptical/bike/swim. Just trying to get through it now though so I can run for years to come!


  8. says

    I was training for the Chicago Marathon this year (which was going to be my first marathon, first time in Chicago, right after my 26th birthday) and developed a stress reaction in my tibia — kind of like a stress fracture but without the fracture. I had to stop running for two months and have just gotten the OK to try running again. It’s been hard — I definitely felt sorry for myself for a while but got a positive attitude about it quickly, which I think helped the healing process. The injury introduced me to swimming and biking though, and I think once I’m back in running shape I’ll try for my first triathlon!

    By the way, I’ve just discovered your blog and I’m really enjoying it! ๐Ÿ™‚


  9. says

    I just found out today having caved and seen the physio that I have to give up running and extended walking for at least 2-3 weeks minimum due to a trapped nerve in my hip which is extending down my leg. This post has helped me so much (even though I am now in tears)… knowing others have been through the same helps. I can barely walk but the elliptical is fine as is the bike and planning on doing more strength work when the acute pain subsides a little too. Thank you!


  10. Lindsay says

    Wow, I just found this post and it has been SO helpful! Julie, I cannot even begin to thank you for your blog. Though not an injury, I’ve had a lot on my plate recently between finishing school, work, family affairs, etc. and my workout routine fell tragically to the wayside. I simply do not have the time anymore (and when I DO have the time, I’m usually too exhausted). Your blog has motivated me to high-tail my eating habits back on track and even to do the unthinkable – start running. I’m a total gym rat, but EVERYONE who knows me knows that I HATE running. I’ve tried over and over again to become a runner and I’ve never had success. Reading your blog has actually redirected my attitude towards running and now I look forward to leashing up my aussie-shepherd mix and hitting the road. I know she sure appreciates it ;). It’s been great for days where I actually feel like squeezing some exercise in but don’t have time for a trip to the gym.

    Regardless of all of that, this post in particular was a much-needed reminder that it’s not only okay, but sometimes necessary to take time off from the regular workout routine in order to focus on other important parts of our lives. As a person living with OCD, it’s a struggle to keep this in mind everyday. Of course, I’ve heard things like this from my loved ones, but it’s a much easier pill to swallow when it comes from someone who has the same passion for working out. Thank you!


  11. says

    Have you ever thought about adding a little bit more than just your articles?

    I mean, what you say is fundamental and all. Nevertheless imagine if you added some great
    graphics or videos to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with images
    and video clips, this site could certainly be one of the very best in its niche.
    Amazing blog!


  12. Lindsay Craig says

    I remembered you had an injury similar to the one I’m having now and creeped deeeeep until I found this! I am currently suffering trochanteric bursitis (hip bursitis–I’m pre med I need to use the big fancy words when I can๐Ÿ˜‰) and I missed out on our families backpacking trip this last weekend because of it. I cried on my way home from the lab this evening. But! Your words of encouragement made me feel so, so much better. As do all of your posts. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you Julie. You are a beautiful soul and you’ve gotten me through more things than I can count. And I’ll add this one to the list when I can run again! Thank you, thank you!
    PS: sorry for creeping so hard, like 6 years hard!



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