Approaching Sports Injuries: 6 factors to help your mental game

Desert Barbell Coach and Dubai based Personal Trainer, Dan, shares his experience with dealing with lifting related injuries.

As a competitive powerlifter or Olympic weightlifter, every time we step into the gym or on to the platform, we are putting ourselves at risk of injury. As lifters, this is something that we must accept if we are planning to push ourselves to lift as much weight as possible. Injury is therefore inevitable, and we need to learn how to deal with these setbacks.

As a lifting coach and a lifter who has suffered his fair share of injuries, I would like to share my views on how I deal with the injury process in both myself and my lifters:

  1. 5 minutes of frustration – give yourself 5 minutes to be angry, sad, frustrated etc. about the injury and express these emotions anyway you want (cry, shout, kick an inanimate object). Having these feelings is completely normal and it is only natural that you would feel this way, HOWEVER, it is not going to help in the bigger picture. So, once your 5 minutes is up, put a pin in the negative emotions and begin to focus your energy on moving forward.
  2. No self-pity – the first thought to enter your mind might be why did this happen to me?! and the honest answer is, why not you? Playing the victim and wallowing in self-pity will get you nowhere. Instead of focusing on how the whole world is against you, you should be focusing on the things that you can do and what needs to be done to recover from the injury. What’s done, is done, accept it and move on.
  3. Seek professional help – in order to start the recovery process you first need to understand what the injury is. Seeking the help of a qualified professional that has a background in treating sports injuries is highly recommended. These practitioners are likely to have a great understanding of your injury and also the rehabilitation process to get you back in to lifting weights as soon as possible. Medical doctors and GP’s are not as likely to have a deep understanding of sports injury and rehab and will likely tell you to stop lifting all together so as to not injure yourself again; obviously not an option.
  4. Do your rehabilitation work – this should go without saying, but actually going to get a diagnosis and having an hour or two of treatment from your sports rehab specialist is only a small part of the rehab process. Your practitioner should give you a rehab protocol to follow and it is your duty to execute this plan to the best of your ability. Take ownership, perform the exercises with due diligence and focus your efforts on this process. It is a process, it can be lengthy and time-consuming, but guess what? If you want to get back to doing the things, you enjoy (lifting heavy weights) then you better be sure you follow the protocol. Make the rehab plan part of your warm up; doing it first means you will focus more of your energy and attention to it, in comparison to doing it at the end when all you can think about is leaving the gym.
  5. Focus on what you can do – this injury shouldn’t mean that you stop training all together. It is now time to take a step-back, consult with your coach and focus on the things that you can do in the gym. If you have an injury in your upper-body then it looks like ‘leg day’ is on the horizon for the foreseeable future, and vice versa. Now would be a time to set some different goals that take in to consideration your injury, rehab time and what you can do. Having a coach that can help you navigate your way through training whilst injured is going to be invaluable. The feeling of still making gains even through this period of rehabilitation is going to be crucial to maintaining a positive mindset throughout this entire process.
  6. Support network – surrounding yourself with supportive training partners, friends and loved ones is of great benefit. Being able to still enjoy training in a positive environment with your friends is going to keep you going back to the gym even when your motivation might be low. Also, having someone you respect and trust offer you words of encouragement and giving you harsh truths will keep you on the path to recovery. This support network is also vital to taking your mind off all things training/injury/rehab for a while and actually enjoying some extra social time outside of the gym.

If you are currently struggling through injury and feel lost, then I hope this article has helped in some way. If you would like some help or advice with training whilst recovering from an injury, then please do not hesitate to contact us for advice.


Our personal training is based in Dubai and boasts a high level of experience, backed by relevant degrees, supporting both general clients and high performance athletes in their strength training journey.

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