No pain, no gain—or so they say.

But when you’ve undergone surgery, that mindset is the last thing you want.

Getting back into exercise after surgery can be exciting, especially if exercise is a big part of how you define yourself or boost your mood. Unfortunately, pushing yourself too hard is a serious concern, as it can delay your recovery or even land you right back in the hospital.

How do you start getting back into shape after being given the all-clear from your doctor? Here’s what you should know.

Plan in Advance

Work with your doctor to understand which of your customary activities you should and should not do. Following the advice of your doctor, coach, or physical therapist can help you ease into an exercise program without overexerting yourself. By understanding where you stand post-surgery, you can work out a customized plan to help you slowly improve over time.

Maintain a Healthy Diet

Not only can good nutrition help in the healing process and boost your immune system, but it’s also a good way to stay in shape during your more sedentary post-op period. As a result, you should be sure to know what to eat and avoid after your operation—and if you can, talk to your doctor or a nutrition coach for a more personalized understanding of what you should be eating to promote recovery.

Keep Active While Getting Back Into Shape

You may not be able to perform on the same level as you could before your injury, but it’s still important to remain active after your surgery. Focus on the muscle groups that were not involved in your surgery. Simple strength exercises can be a great way to stay active without moving too much.

Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard

Before your surgery, you may have been used to pushing yourself into more complex exercise routines.

When it comes to working out after surgery, things should be different. Even if you love the challenge, straying from your plan could cause pain or injury, and it might even end with you back at the hospital. Begin with a little at a time, only what works for you, and don’t forget to take rest days.

Avoid the temptation to go the extra mile—sometimes literally—and instead listen to your body’s signals.

Get Help for Your Pain

Depending on what kind of surgery you’ve undergone, you should expect some pain. This is especially true in the first days following your procedure.

However, acute or chronic pain is a sign that something is wrong, so reach out to your doctor for help. You may be referred to pain management services, like those of this location, to help you manage your pain and understand its causes.

Make Your Comeback

You may be down, but you’re not out. Getting back into shape after surgery will force you to take a recovery period, and it’ll involve mental endurance as well as physical. But getting back up to speed bit by bit can help you stay motivated and, most of all, stay healthy.

If you liked the tips in this post, check out the rest of our blog for more insights on staying healthy and fit for the long term.