How injuries can improve your fitness


Injuries don’t have to be a depressing setback to fitness. I’m reminded of this because so many of us find ourselves injured at the end of summer, when the fun of biking, hiking, surfing, waterskiing, softball, etc. has us limping, wincing and wondering if the moments of euphoria were worth it.

“Out of commission” from injury is a depressing place to be, for so many reasons, which makes it even more tempting to take your recovery as sanctioned couch-potatohood.

But unless prescribed by your doctor, prolonged inactivity may be your worst choice. It can raise blood sugar, lower your metabolism, depress your mood, and make you miss out on…


Maybe you can’t do anything strenuous or high-impact, or anything that you previously enjoyed, but you can probably do something. And whatever you CAN safely do (even if it’s just hobbling around on crutches) has one huge fitness advantage over your previous exercise routine: Novelty!

New muscles will be doing new movements and even a few minutes of novel challenges can be worth hours of your old routine.

Get this:

  • Your body has over 600 muscles. I bet there are at least a few you have been neglecting, no matter how much cross-training you’ve done.

  • Using these dormant muscles gives you much more fitness “bang for your buck”. Re-using already-fit muscles has diminishing returns. You have probably heard the estimate that you burn about 30% fewer calories at any activity that you’ve been doing regularly for 3 months.

  • Even if you use old muscles in new ways, there’s a huge payoff. Every muscle has multiple ways in which it can be challenged, for different kinds of improvement. For example, sprinting trains your quadriceps to do something very different than slow jogging or quad extensions or a wall sit or jumping. All 5 exercises improve your quads, but in different ways. This means that a novel exercise–even if it feels wimpy compared to your old routine–will give you new benefits.

  • Any activity is better than none, no matter how minimal. The first few minutes of exercise can give you the most benefits, such as boosting metabolism, lowering blood sugar, stimulating muscles and releasing endorphins. If you are accustomed to exercising for 60 minutes per day, you may think 10 minutes per day is worthless. Quite the contrary…especially if it’s an exercise that is novel.

  • A few very short bouts of activity may be even better than a single long bout…so even if you can only do 2 minutes of something a few times per day, that’s still valuable.

In fitness, novelty trumps almost everything else, and most of us don’t get enough.

So find the movements you CAN safely do (your doctor and PT can help), and refuse to let your mood, metabolism, blood sugar, and fitness suffer just because your old routine isn’t possible. As one hobbling client put it, “It’s an injur-tunity.”

Have a good and safe week!


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