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The Fitness Zone

Bouncing back – how to help your client recover from a serious injury
October 15, 2018 | by Kate Kraschnefski

If you have a client who has been training regularly with you, no doubt they love the benefits of exercise and have most likely achieved amazing results. If your client unfortunately gets injured this can be extremely devastating for them and can also challenge you as their fitness professional. 

Even though a likely result is that there will be a period of time that they cannot train or are restricted, they will still need you and value your support! Here are five tips to help you amazingly assist your client to get through this difficult time. 

1. Create a team with their health care professionals

No doubt a team of medical and allied health professionals will have been caring for your client in the acute stages of their injury, so make yourself known to them to ensure you become a key part of your client’s rehabilitation. Understand the exercises a physiotherapist or an exercise physiologist is prescribing, and program to compliment their treatment. Be in regular communication with them to track your client’s progression and adapt their training accordingly.

2.  Help your client re-frame their expectations

If your client was working towards a particular goal or was used to a certain level of physical performance, understand that deviations from this as a result of their injury will be mentally tough for them. Help your client set new goals and assist them to see that achieving them is just as much an impressive feat as what they were previously working towards.

For example, if you have a client who was training for a 10km run, and they have to have knee surgery, help them see that even just being able to jog for 1km will be a significant achievement for them.  

3.  Celebrate every small victory

If your client is physically restricted, no doubt they will face many times in the day where even the simplest of tasks is frustrating or painful. Therefore, throw a proverbial party when they hit even small milestones in training. It may be when range of motion increases, or when small weight is added to lifts. Again, remind them of the significance of this progress in the context of what they have been through and celebrate the body healing and gaining strength. 

4.  Find intensity or focus in other areas

If medically approved, be creative with your programming and find intensity or focus in other areas of training. For example, if it is a shoulder injury, focus on leg strength. Taking training to the pool is a great option that can relieve the joints and create a new challenge.  

It may be a time for your client to try more holistic exercise like yoga or Pilates, which will support their recovery, allow them to connect with their bodies and may see them grow in confidence by learning new skills.

5.  Understand that healing is not linear

There will be some weeks where you client is making incredible progress and others where healing seems slower or has even gone backwards. These times will no doubt be difficult for your client, so make sure you are ready to support them through and remind them of how far they have come. These weeks it may be worth having a lighter session with your client doing exercises they are super competent at, so they get a positive mental boost and the body can focus on healing. 

Serious injury does not have to mean you stop seeing your client. In fact, it is often the time your client will need you most and you will be in a fantastic position to positively influence their recovery. Just remember your role will not purely be about exercise, it will be about listening, motivating and adapting your approach to be the best support possible. 


Kate has been a Gym Manager, as well as a Personal Training Manager at Fernwood Brisbane City. She also taught yoga, Pilates, freestyle aerobics and group cycling, and is now Training Team Captain at the Australian Institute of Fitness QLD.

This content is not intended to be used as individual health or fitness advice divorced from that imparted by medical, health or fitness professionals. Medical clearance should always be sought before commencing an exercise regime. The Institute and the authors do no take any responsibility for accident or injury caused as a result of this information.

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