A woman stretching before exercising. Photo courtesy Pixabay

If you are like most people, an injury will interrupt your fitness routine at some point. Whether it’s getting back to the gym, yoga studio or boot camp, the return can be intimidating. Will you be able to get back to where you were? Is there a risk of re-injury?

So, how do you safely transition from physical therapy to your favorite workout program? When in doubt, consult with your physical therapist, who can offer guidelines on how to steadily progress your program as your fitness improves.

Here are four things to keep in mind during your transition:

1. Get help if you feel lost

If you feel you need guidance, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you are working with a personal trainer, connect your trainer with your physical therapist to discuss your specific goals and how best to achieve them.

2. Start slowly

Often times while recovering from an injury, we are unable to exercise as frequently or as intensely as we did before. It’s important to start slowly. For example, if you are resuming a strength training routine, start with lighter weights and higher repetitions. As your tolerance to the exercise improves over the course of one to two months, steadily increase the amount of weight you lift. Your body will adapt to the physical stressors over time, allowing you to increase your workout intensity.

3. Progress steadily

If you begin a running or walking routine, start with just 10 to 15 minutes. Each time you go, increase your time by two to three minutes, as tolerated. It may take time to get up to the desired amount of minutes you would like to achieve, but by progressing steadily, you minimize your risk of injury.

4. Track your progress

Write everything down. Track the amount of weight you lifted and the number of repetitions, or the amount of time you ran, swam or cycled, to progress your program steadily. This also gives you positive reinforcement to stay active.

You should be confident in the progress you’ve made and that your injury is taken care of. Working out with a skilled trainer who specializes in post-rehab training is a great way to bridge the gap between therapy and working out on your own.

Lyle Pavuk is a doctor of physical therapy at the Sewall Healthy Living Center at Sharp Coronado Hospital.

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