Ever since I started training I’ve been pushing myself to be stronger and fitter. I want to keep improving and I can’t stand it when I feel stagnant in my training. I try pushing my limits and everyone once in awhile my body finds a limit. Injuries happen. There’s a risk for injury everytime you exercise.
These setbacks can be frustrating when you know you’ve been making great progress and now you have to back off from training. The immediate thoughts begin to creep in of losing all the “gains” from the hard work you’ve done. You think “ugh it’s going to take so long to get back to this point”. A snowball effect of negative thoughts runs in your head.
But there are lessons to be learned from setbacks. Ask yourself some honest questions. How did it happen? What are you going to do now? What do I have control over in the current circumstances? How can I learn from this to better prepare myself for the future?
I’ve recently been dealing with and injured hip for over two months now. On December 15th, 2018 I set a new powerlifting total and hit personal records on all three lifts. My training leading up to it felt great with the exception of my left hip and hamstring feeling tight some days. Two weeks later I wake up on New Years Eve and can barely move my left leg. If I do move it I feel a sharp shooting pain. I can’t squat, can’t bend over to pick things up and can’t demo exercises when coaching.
I rest the leg for about 9 days on zero exercise. I try some soft tissue work and lay on a lacrosse ball for 5-10 minutes at a time with minimal changes in pain. I started to feel impatient and told myself I need to find something to do in the gym. I still have three other limbs I can train to keep a good carryover effect. Side note: the carryover effect is when you keep training most of your body, excluding the injured area, which keeps good blood flow to the whole body and helps retain muscle mass in the injured area. The extra blood flow can also help speed up the recovery time. When the injured area heals it will be better set up to catch back up to the rest of your body.
When I decided to start training again I followed the simple principle of, find what doesn’t hurt and do that. Upper body exercises didn’t hurt if I was holding light to medium weight dumbbells. Picking up heavy dumbbells or heavy plates was not happening. I found so many exercises I could focus on that I haven’t paid attention to in awhile. My routine became based around pull ups, dumbbell presses, light bench press, dips, assault bike intervals, bodyweight lunges (these somehow didn’t hurt), and light jogging. It’s been mostly upper body, but with the bike and some lunges I can keep a higher blood flow to the hips and legs. I found ways to keep it interesting. I played with different rep schemes, made my own workouts, and kept it challenging.
It’s extremely important to stay in the gym when you have an injury you can train around. My focus has shifted from getting stronger to getting healthy and pain free. I’m still grateful I can train in an amazing environment. I learned that training is a gift and a privilege that can be taken away. I enjoy training for a goal of getting stronger and lifting big weights, but I also just enjoy training. Staying in the gym and finding a reason to train makes me happy and relieves the feeling of frustration when I feel sorry for myself. Getting upset because I can’t control the situation is terrible for my mental health. I need to focus on what I can control and stay engaged in the gym.
Learn from your setbacks.
Start by finding what doesn’t hurt and do that.
Ease the feelings of frustration by focusing on what you can control.
Shift your training focus to something you can work towards.
Hopefully this can help someone shift their focus, stay grateful, and stay engaged in the gym when they have a setback.
If you have been through this before share your story in the comments. Share this post with a friend who may benefit.