Coping with setbacks

when life gives you lemons

Now’s a good time for me to write about setbacks, as I’m currently in the midst of one.

Our journey towards health, fitness, sporting goals are all just that – a journey. There is a path we lead with milestones or events that appear on this journey as it twists and turns.

There will also be setbacks – guaranteed. Setbacks are a little bit like stressors, you know they’re going to crop up, but how we deal with them and manage our way through and around them is what shapes us and our personal journey.

I’m fit and healthy – normally. 2024 is proving to be a challenge. I had certain fitness goals this year which were a change to the norm and my year started well with training, hitting good numbers and feeling fit.

Illness struck in March – I’ll normally clear this in 48/72 hrs. This was a little longer for a normal, seasonal cold.

This was compounded by a knee niggle.

Training continued after the cold, the niggle improved but I retained a cough which dented my aerobic capacity. I had a race in 4 weeks…. As a coach and NT, would I have advised my client to continue to rest or carry on? Definitely the former – I did the latter, all be it at a lower intensity, however open water swimming in 11 degrees water, probably wasn’t the best idea.

No improvements led to a race deferral giving me 5 weeks to get back on form.

The cough persisted – Dr’s  visits, antibiotics and no training. These continued setbacks got me down in the dumps.

Now if I reflect on this time, could I have approached it differently? Absolutely – I’d had a niggling knee injury, which had flared up, and has previously bothered me. This is an overuse injury and rears its head when I neglect strength training and conditioning work that keeps my body strong and able to cope with the demands of exercise (remember this to can be a stressor).

shift your focus

Instead of shifting focus and concentrating on what I could control I just stopped. Now there’s a very valid argument to say my body needed a rest and time to recover, and I’d agree. However, very light mobility work and rehabilitation on my knee and around the hip area wouldn’t have put any great load on my recovery. This would have helped me not only from a recovery perspective but also from a standpoint of keeping my body strong for the future. It would also have made a big difference psychologically…..

This setback didn’t need to get me down. Of course I was disappointed and frustrated, but I could still have adapted and shifted my focus to something positive. We often let setbacks derail our long term goals and even short term goals. Control the controllables…..You may have specific nutrition goals and you’re suddenly faced with a social calendar of weddings and evenings out. This then becomes an excuse or setback where your mindset changes and you think, ‘what’s the point?’, or ‘there’s always something’.

Look at what you can control and what positive decisions you can make. One meal doesn’t break a day and a day doesn’t break a week. Learn to reset and refocus and above all give yourself a break. Trying to be perfect all of the time is likely to lead to disappointment – it’s untenable. Find the right balance, be consistent 80% – 90% of the time and you’ll keep moving forward towards your goals.

Above all – don’t give up, instead learn to adapt and overcome.