Home guest articles 5 Exercise Tips When You’re on the Road to Recovery

5 Exercise Tips When You’re on the Road to Recovery

written by Guest Blogger December 15, 2011

Whether it’s an illness, an injury, a broken heart or over-indulgences and stress from the upcoming holidays, these life events tend to turn our healthy routines upside down. In this guest post Bob Hartzell shares some helpful tips in how to get back to our healthy routines in a healthy way.  


The key to a successful exercise program is repetition; you’ve got to stay with it. There’s nothing wrong with sporadic exercise but for those of us who didn’t grow up with fitness as a part of our lives, it takes a lot of work to get to the point where that exercise program is a priority in your life.

A good response to the question “How long do I have to keep doing this?” is, “Until you want to.” It takes a long time to get to that point which means that when serious illness unravels your life for a while, it will be a challenge to reinstitute exercise as an important part of your life.

It takes a while to get back in the groove with any practice, if you’ve been away from it for awhile. If you’re a musician that hasn’t played the piano for three months you’ll feel like you’re all thumbs the first few times you sit down on that bench. If you haven’t ridden a horse for a long time it’s going to feel foreign to you.

But if you’ve lost your exercise regimen to illness, you’re faced with reconditioning yourself to daily workouts or runs or walks, along with a body that has been substantially weakened by poor health. Not only do you have to get used to the practice again, you have to rebuild your physical capacity.

  1. Remember that exercise pays off early. Do you recall the first time you decided to get off the couch and attempt to develop a healthier lifestyle? In my case I literally had to walk before I could run, for about a year. But I was working hard on that treadmill and what I learned was that it’s the amount of effort you expend that gets results, not your level of performance.
  2. Don’t let the impact of the illness scare you. You’re starting over again, it’s just that there are some new physical realities to manage. If you’ve had surgery of some sort your physician will establish parameters for physical stress; what you have to know is the limits beyond which you’ll do damage to healing tissue or weakened muscles.
  3. Your stamina will return on its own time. You can’t push yourself back into shape after an illness, at least not in the same way that you pushed yourself from a sedentary lifestyle to an active one. Respect the limits your body puts on you. If your respiratory system is taxed to the max by a half mile walk, then that’s your starting point. The goal is to try and restore your body a little at a time; you can’t assume you’ll be anywhere near where you left off.
  4. Find a comfortable way to begin again. If you have been ill for a long time then a slow, steady restart is going to be mandatory. If you aren’t comfortable going back to a gym yet, walk in your neighborhood and get some light free weights for your den. The critical element to any exercise is the time you put into it, not the weight you can lift or the distance you can run.
  5. Redefine progress to match your new circumstances. It’s been my experience that a successful exercise program is one that pushes you enough that you’re working, but not so much that the prospect of doing it again drives you away. If you’re on the mend from a difficult and protracted illness it may be that you’re going to be starting out with very basic steps. Remember that exercise is just one aspect of your return to the active, healthy world.

About the Author

Bob Hartzell has been writing for five years about education and other life essentials on a variety of websites. Much of his recent work has been about master’s degrees and their value in career enhancement, in recognition of the fact that the job market has gone completely off the tracks in the last decade.

I’ve fallen off the health wagon a few times (and counting!), and Bob’s tips are bang on. How I climbed back on each and every time is to first make activity a habit, whether it’s a 30 minute walk or 10 to 15 minutes of stretching and core exercises every day. Do you have any tips to add to this list?  

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Cat December 16, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Thanks for another great post Steph. I’m going to put this on my bulletin board to help keep my “resolve” for 2012.

The only tip I might add for a successful recovery is having someone to hold us accountable for the daily effort it takes. When it’s just for ourselves, we tend to get a bit lazy, but if there is an exercise “buddy” waiting, most of us will make the extra effort to be there. I bought an indoor “stepper” last year so the weather wouldn’t stop me either.

A few years ago, when I couldn’t find ANYONE to commit to a regular schedule with me, I looked for a dog to walk at least three times a week (their enthusiasm is contagious too). Don’t forget about all the free online health & fitness groups for support. Even if we have to start a program solo, the chances of meeting another committed soul “out there” is increased ~ like partnering with someone for dance classes. It’s not always easy, but where there’s a will….

Head Health Nutter December 16, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Oh, wow, Cat, thank you for these excellent tips! All are very helpful and sound like fun. 🙂


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