Okay, you’re at the gym. Finally, you’ve been procrastinating but you made it. And today is the day you’ll start getting back in shape.

Because your doctor told you to either

  • lose weight
  • improve your health
  • reduce cholesterol
  • strengthen your bones

or then many other things doctors tell you to do.

So, you’re here, to get back in shape. But when you make your way up the stairs you notice your knee hurts, an old high school injury that flares up occasionally.


You notice you’re out of breath, because the last time you strapped on your running shoes Friends was a hot show.

This is too much to handle, you tell yourself as you do an about-face and head down the stairs. But wait! Turn around! There is a solution.

Does this all seem too familiar?

Knowing what to do in the gym after an injury, surgery or a period of inactivity is hard. But it doesn’t need to be this way. With your determination and some professional expertise, you can overcome your limitations and take your important first step.

Let me share two people’s stories (names changed) who I’ve worked with (in the past) who have overcome their physical limitations and crushed their health and fitness

Hopefully you’ll gain inspiration and motivation from their stories.

Mark, 63

Mark came to me five weeks after his left leg was amputated below his knee.

His right shoulder hurt. He was at least 40 pounds overweight. He was wheelchair bound, yet he still had goals. He wanted to

  •  strengthen the left leg for his prosthetic limb.
  •  lose those 40 pounds
  •  take that important first step

Where to start? Training was hard for Mark. He was in constant pain, and he had a hard time getting in and out of his wheelchair.

However, he preserved.

We worked on his hips by using resistance bands, exercised his upper body by using gym machines and weighted medicine balls, and trained his core through him sitting on stability and bosu balls.

He worked around his limitations and with each step of his training took him closer to his goals.

Mary-Ann, 43,

Mary Ann was a busy working mother of two young girls who wanted to return to her former activity levels. She was a former high school athlete, however, and both her kneecaps kept dislocating. Her paletta tendon (tendon that connects the quadriceps to the kneecap) was in the wrong place.

She already had surgery on one and rehabbed the other.

Her limitations?   High impact activities like running, jumping and aerobics were out and in were low impact activities like kettlebell swings, spin bike, and the elliptical.

To prevent further dislocations, Mary Ann (and I) strengthened her quadriceps, which act as knee shock absorbers and her hamstrings which are the main knee stabilizers.

We supplemented this with balance and core training.  So far, she’s had no recurrences and she has regained strength and she is back in business.

What did these two people have that let them be successful? I call it DP2.


Both of these clients refused to allow their limitations to keep them from achieving their desired outcomes.

2. Perseverance

Both did the physical work required, despite the pain.

3. Dedication

Both set aside time in their busy lives to train, staying focused on their goals.

4. Professional Expertise

Both trusted me to work around their limitations.

Other Factors

Along with finding your own DP2, there are other factors to consider when coming back from injury or long period of inactivity, according to Patrick Doyle, D.C., of Hill Country Spine and Sport.

“Flexibility is always the first step and should be continued even after full performance is returned to the area. 10 -15 minutes of stretching is a good rule of thumb,” Dr Doyle says.

He recommends “specific stretches for the injured area as shown by a rehab doctor or personal trainer.”

The pace of strength training should be given serious consideration, according to Dr Doyle.

“Building strength to pre-injury status should be performed in increments. Start with 3-5 sets of 15-20 repetitions, then progress by reducing sets as strength and range of motion returns to normal, working the injured area 3 times per week.’’

Are you ready to start getting a leg up on your limitations?

Don’t let your uncertainty of what to do keep you from beginning. With all the endless fitness magazines, exercise programs, gimmicks, and TV programs like The Biggest Loser telling you how to get in shape. It’s overwhelming.

If you don’t have a rehab doctor, find a personal trainer (like me) who can help you decide what you need to do. You don’t have to make a long-term commitment, but you will benefit from a knowledgeable trainer.

Wait, I can hear you now.

I don’t really have a limitation, unless you count laziness. I just can’t seem to get in shape.”

That’s okay. If you are just starting out after a period of inactivity, the trick is to keep it simple. Over complicating exercise is setting yourself up for failure.

Instead, start simple with these following suggestions.

1In the gym- Start with fundamental human movements .

2.  Move 30 minutes per day minimum – This can also be done in smaller increments. For example, 10 minutes 3 times a day will work.

3. No minimum pace requirements The mental aspect is more important than the physical at the beginning. Keep it simple and keep yourself moving.

4. Download my beginner strength training program here.

Wrapping up

What are you waiting for? Please take that important first step and get back in shape. Trust me, when you start to get that first leg up on your limitations, you’ll find that the rest of you will follow.

If Mary-Anne and Mark can do it, so can you.

If you’re looking for a program to set a strong exercise foundation after time away from the gym, check out my program Get Back In The Saddle here.

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