We’ve all been there – a massive cold or flu sets in or you pick up a knock that stops you exercising and taking part in sports for a while. Many people react by severing all activity and drive for the duration of their ailment, turning into a heap of melancholy and despair.

“I wish I wasn’t ill so I could do this”


“I’m really frustrated about being injured, I can’t do that”

Okay, so you’re not feeling well, but is that REALLY a reason to boycott your creativity and motivation altogether? Imagine if you had never done the thing that you can’t do… you wouldn’t be missing it right now. So put yourself in another frame of mind and get your motivation that way. If you can’t play football because you’ve damaged your leg, go to the gym instead and do some work on your upper body. If you have flu and reading is hurting your eyes, then listen to an audiobook instead.

If you’re physically incapacitated for a while, it’s vitally important that you keep your mind engaged and maintain some kind of routine so that you do not slip into bad health, poor motivation and destructive sleeping patterns.

How to be positive and proactive through injury and illness

Before we start, I want you be totally honest. Ask yourself “Is this injury/illness REALLY stopping me from doing my usual routine?”.

If you answered “no”, then you’re healed! Go on and get on with it! If you answered “yes”, then please read on!

The main thing we’re trying to steer away from here is the common act of slipping into a lazy, unmotivated, uninspired routine of procrastination and waiting expecting things to fall into your lap. Nothing will happen unless you make it happen.

So what should you do?

Firstly, work out a rough weekly schedule of how your time would be spent on a normal day without injury or illness. You just need to break it down into blocks of time, for example one of my days is like this:

7am-7:30am: Breakfast

8am-9:30am: Gym

10am-11am: Writing & Studying

11am-12pm: Lunch & Catching up on the news

12pm-1:30pm: Private Coaching

2pm-5pm: Delivering workshop training

6pm-7pm: Playing football

7:30pm-11pm: Eating, watching TV, playing XBox, seeing friends

That’s an example of one of my days this week. Unfortunately the following day comprised of:

8am: Wake up in immense pain

10am: Go to hospital

4pm: Leave hospital being told that I may be on crutches for 4 weeks

5pm: Sit at home talking on the phone and watching TV

And this is real, not just for example purposes… In fact it is the main motivation for writing this article. So, I KNOW I have to change my pattern. I know that getting to the gym will be a problem – it’s my left leg and I drive a manual car, and all the gym equipment I use is upstairs and I can’t use my legs. But that’s okay, because the gym has a lift, I can borrow an automatic car and let someone else drive my manual in exchange, and I can still work on my upper body! There are ways to get around most obstacles, you just need to find the solution.

At first I was thinking that I wouldn’t be able to do anything and I’d be bed-ridden for 4 weeks. I couldn’t go to the gym, I couldn’t drive to my clients, I couldn’t play football, and I couldn’t see my friends…. EVERYTHING WAS RUINED!

But really… after feeling sorry for myself, the ONLY thing on that list that I couldn’t really do was to play football. As I explained already, the gym is do-able, I can deliver group and private coaching sessions and workshops, in fact me hobbling in on crutches could be a good icebreaker, and I could drive the automatic to visit my friends, or if not, I could get a taxi or badger someone for a lift.

That’s all well and good once you reframe the issue and realise things are not as bad as they first seemed, but when there really is no solution…

Rewrite your daily plan!

It’s that simple! Okay, between 6pm and 7pm on a Tuesday evening I can’t play football. So how can I fill that time with something equally as inspiring and motivating? It’s time to get creating and think of what you’d do instead if the thing you now can’t do had never existed in the first place. Imagine what you’d do instead… but if it’s something like “play football” and your replacement is “play tennis”, then keep thinking… you need to find something you can do in your current physical situation.

For me, it is going to be keeping in the football theme. I’m going to be using this time to read more life stories of footballers and managers. I’m going to watch some football DVDs, maybe play some football simulation games that encourage individual positioning and movement, or going to more games. I’ll also be going to the gym to keep me motivated and mobile, albeit adjusting my routine. I obviously can’t do a cardio workout… or can I? Of course I can! Cardio workouts aren’t restricted to just leg work… gyms have arm cycles, rope pulls, and other upper-body driven cardio systems.

So really, aside from one hour, my Tuesdays are not really affected in the slightest, despite my initial doom and gloom. Get up, write your usual weekly schedule, find ways to make it work, and replace the things you REALLY can’t do.

If you need help with any of this…

I’m available to help you out. This is part of what I do with my private clients. I work with athletes to keep them motivated and inspired and mobile (when fit or injured). If you want help with any of this, get in touch via the Contact page.

Author's Bio: 

Karl Stringer is a Sports Performance Coach & Confidence Coach, specialising in football and individual sports, with clients in the English Football League and athletics.

Karl works with professional athletes to help them achieve their potential and improve performance through confidence building and effective mental preparation, and delivers workshops, one-to-one, and group coaching sessions.