How to keep your ‘mojo’ strong during rehab…

Now this is a ‘little off subject’ for me and you’re probably thinking why am I, a physio, who is usualy inly interested in muscles, tendons and ligaments, talking about psychological things such as motivation, and what gives me the qualifications to talk about it!

Well the qualifications bit is easy… I have NONE, I don’t claim to be a sports psychologist, or any type of psychologist in fact. However I do have a bit of experience, both personally as someone who has been through the highs and the lows of a few injuries himself.

But I also have the years of experience of working with both professional athletes, but more importantly many more non professional athletes. The kind like you and me, who train or play sports with the passion and commitment of a professional, but just happens to have another job that needs to be done to pay the bills as well.

Now having worked closely with both groups, spending hours a week, sometimes for months on end, in one to one situations, I often find myself with someone who can’t see an end to their injury or feel that they are ever going to return to the same level again or sport or competition again.

It’s this experience of how I manage these situations that I want to share with you today and want to pass on a few of my tips on how to keep motivated during rehab.

So here are my top ten tips on how to keep your ‘mojo, strong during rehab… A word of warning there will be way too much BOLD, and ITALICS and even BOLD ITALICS to emphasis my points… sorry

Top 10 Tips for keeping your mojo strong….

1) Accept the highs and lows

First and foremost its vitally important from the start of an injury rehab program to recognise that there will be highs and lows. It’s inevitable no matter how much enthusiasm, drive, passion and commitment you have, no matter how focused, determined or bloody minded you are, you just have to accept that there will be lows, BUT also accept that nothing lasts forever, especially the lows they will pass.

I’ve even done a little chart to demonstrate this point a little better here

2) Be able to recognise when you are in a low patch

Not just the usual ‘I can’t be bothered with these exercises today’ situation after a long day a work. This will be more than that, this will be dread of the task ahead hours before you have to do it, this will be negative, pessimistic thoughts creeping in when your supposed to be doing something else, and maybe happening regularly. This is a low patch, recognise it, appreciate it and…

3) Ease off a bit

There is no point fighting a low patch, and there is usually no point in trying to fight it by upping or increasing what you are doing in an effort to push through a low. In my opinion, easing off a bit and letting your brain and body be aware that you are rewarding it by doing so, seems to work better than punishing it for making you feel low.

This is not an excuse to avoid all of your rehab sessions, just an occasional ‘let off’.

4) Make sure you have SMART goals

SMART = Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timed

Specific, means not just I want to be stronger, which part, quads, shoulders etc? Measurable, means quantify it, how much stronger, 10% 5kg added? Achievable and Realistic, means just that don’t set yourself a mountain to climb, it’s easier to set smaller goals and increase them as you progress. Also making sure the goal is right for you.

5) Surround yourself with positive like-minded people

If you are going through an injury on your own then try to make contact with others who have been there and done it before, use tools such as Twitter, Facebook and other web-based social media pages to seek these people out. You will be surprised how the support of others who have been through what you are going through makes it feel completely different the camaraderie and banter you can have will soon push the lows away.

6) Have some fun and banter, don’t be too serious.

It’s hard to have low mojo when your laughing, take the mickey out of yourself and others. I do it all the time with my patients, much to the annoyance of my superiors and some peers, who think i should be more professional and informal! ‘bollocks to that’ I say!

If my patients are laughing and smiling when they’re working hard or struggling thats only good in my eyes.

Also ask anyone who trains or plays in a team environment such as football, netball etc they will soon tell you any low mood or lack of motivation soon goes when the dressing room banter starts up, but just make sure you give as good as you get… I love it when my patients give me banter back during sessions…

7) Mix things up and keep it varied

If you are a runner and just run things can get boring very quickly, just as if you have had an ACL reconstruction, doing lower limb strengthening exercises soon gets boring. So a few times a week do something different, instead of that leg strengthening session, go spinning, instead of those Nordics do some RDLs

8) Use music and videos to help

Its well-known the inspirational effects of music! Everyone has that CHEWN, that song that makes the hair on the back of their neck stand up on end! So use it, play it lots, and play it loud, let it motivate you before a training session or whenever you feel those negative thoughts kick in.

The same with videos YouTube is crammed full of 5 mins inspirational videos to get you going and boost you up! Use them, here’s one of my favorites thanks to my brother-in-law, a keen power lifter and blogger with a wealth of common sense knowledge to those who want to lift heavy weights his site is here.

9) Use inspirational quotes and posters/pictures

Again there are loads out there, but place them in places that will do you the most good. When I was a physio at Watford FC we had posters all over the place and most gyms tend to have them, so why not use them around your own home? You can put that poster that stirs your soul on your wardrobe or fridge door to keep it at the forefront of your mind. Here are a few of my favorites motivational quotes…


It never gets easier, you just get stronger and faster

You’ve got three choices in life, give up, give in or give it all you’ve got

Staying fit is a lifetime commitment, there are no finish lines, just checkpoints on the way

The more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in battle

Relish the bad times, without them you cannot appreciate the good times

Champions turn setback into comebacks

The trouble of not having a goal is you spend all the time running up and down the field

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you

Train insane or remain the same

Pain is only temporary, trophies are forever


the ‘pain is just weakness’ image is especially for @tomgoom I know how much he likes it…

10) Finally….. just toughen the f**k up…

Sometimes all the tricks and tips in the world just wont help and you are going to have to face up to the task in front of you… Its life and yes its tough and yes it can be unfair but your just going to have to do it… end of, Sometimes you just have to get your head down, and move forwards, or sideways, or upwards or which ever way you have to go, just get up and smash it… it wont last forever

My final thoughts on keeping your motivation strong are that everyone is individual and everyone deals with things differently, but I feel that if you are realistic, honest, not to hard, but not to soft with yourself you will get through any low and soon have your mojo back… And keeping a sense of humour, not being so serious and enjoying some banter is essential…!

Thanks for reading


One thought on “How to keep your ‘mojo’ strong during rehab…

  1. Hi Adam,

    Really enjoy the blog entries. Always making me think! I’m a newly qualified physio from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. Was due to start working in a sports setting but thought it would be a good idea to dislocate my shoulder playing rugby, which required an ortho intervention (open stabilisation repair!) Just wanted to get first hand knowledge of what my patients go thru lol! Consequently out of work for ~ 2 months.

    I’m just over 4 weeks post op so out of sling and trying to restore ROM, fun times! I read your favourite shoulder exercise entry. Couldn’t agree more with ext & int rotn in neutral. So tough to ‘switch off’ the torque producing muscles, i.e. lats, deltoid & pec. Believe it or not I’ve taken an old school approach with restoring ROM by using pullies for GH flex & abdn. Hate the idea of using a stick for assisted active ROM. With the pullies, I find that when flexing the good arm, (right in this case) it gives me feedback on what the movement should be like on the operated arm. Sort of like the concept of mirror therapy by trying to retrain neurological efficiency to optimise movement patterns.

    Have already gained such a better appreciation of what patients go through during rehab. I’m no high level athlete but did play rugby at a good level and am a keen tennis player & golfer. Been slogging it out on the recumbent bike for 2/52 and mixing in some machine weights such as knee extension & the adductor machine (don’t tell the functional training police!) I think I’m the only man to ever use ‘the groin machine!’ However, I do have lower limb weaknesses so good to address them while the upper body is out of action for the foreseeable future.

    I’ve a big interest in the shoulder/ scap injuries. My final year research proposal was ‘An EMG analysis of the three trapezius & serratis anterior muscles in young amateur rugby players. A case-control study.’ Based a lot of my lit review around Cools & Horsley’s work. Happy to send on to you by email (I’m sure it’s got plenty of errors!)

    Anyway, I’ve taken some good tips from this blog, thanks.

    Hope to hear back from you.

    All the best,
    Andy Cummiskey

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