Making Progress While Sidelined As An Injured Athlete


It’s easy to get discouraged when you are sidelined and get caught up ruminating over lost progress, missed goals or canceled events. I’ll admit I spent a short time in this head space before ultimately realizing that being sidelined was an opportunity for growth.

Box/ Rogue Fitness

Not sure where to start?

1. Address your injuries and enlist the help of a professional if needed.

For me, my injuries were not weightlifting related but rather a longstanding occupational issue. After a decade as a dental hygienist I have developed a significant amount of musculoskeletal imbalance, dysfunction and pain. My right side is full of shortened muscles and adhesions that helped me stabilize an awkward posture at work, especially post-partum when things were feeling less than stable in the abdominal region.

Tiger Balm/ Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salt Soak/ Silicone Cups & Sustainable Cork Therapy Ball

I am currently in the process of having these imbalances addressed professionally and learning specific self care and maintenence tools to keep my body more balanced for both life and sport.

Soft Tissue Work Using an AXIS OPTP Foam Roller/ Leggings: ZYIA Active/ Tank: Nike

2. Review and adjust your definition of progress if needed.

If your definition of progress is linked to numbers or is generally very narrow being sidelined will seem less tolerable.

3.Pay special attention to basic self care and recovery efforts.

Breath Work & Mind Body Connection

Now is a good time to make sure you are getting in decent macro and micro nutrients, taking care of your mental health and getting adequate sleep. Taking extra care in these basic self care areas will not only help your body heal but you will be better prepared to handle the added challenges when you do get back into the gym.

3. Start slow.

Crossover Symmetry Hip & Core Bands

Much of my instability and disfunction is in my right hip so I have been working on basic balancing exercises on one foot using different surfaces to add a challenge as it becomes more stable and I am slowly working toward being able to pistol squat on each side without cheating the movements. Crossover Symmetry hip and core bands have also been a great tool in re-teaching those muscles to fire and to test if they are firing equally (they are still not but keep improving with practice).

Now we are all guilty of cherry picking our favorites when it comes to training which is one of the reasons I need and utilize a coach. They will see and program what I would choose to otherwise pretend didn’t exist. Case in point; I would have never have programmed myself a sots press but it stabilized my overhead position in a snatch and now I appreciate the value in them and even look forward to them.

Personally I avoided unilateral movements unless they were programmed because they were difficult and uncomfortable. I was also pretty terrible at them because my balance was objectively poor and my core was not fully functioning. Taking time to work on these movements and learning to engage previously dysfunctional muscle groups is helping to even out some musculoskeletal discrepancies, therefore reducing my overall pain/discomfort level in the process. As a result I will continue to do unilateral work, core work and general athletic movements regularly.

Recovery will look different for everyone and will be highly dependent on injuries and personalized treatment plans of involved professionals. What works for me may not be applicable to you.

I am trying not to think of lost gains during the recovery process but trying to focus on the areas I am seeing improvement and have some control over. I’ve already experienced a huge increase in my quality of life which is why I am motivated and excited to heal and rebuild a sound body before loading up a training cycle or adding any events to my calendar.

What are some things, mental or physical, that have helped you get through periods of injury and recovery?