Overcoming Setbacks

After much frustration and many false starts I have come to accept that almost any time I start a new fitness routine or get on a really solid roll with my diet, I either get injured or sick. I recognize that I’m the architect of my own destruction most of the time because I tend to jump in too fast andtry to do too much, but I do think that things like injury and illness are a natural part of any journey, and how we respond to those events can make all the difference.

At the beginning of April, I started the Couch 2 5K program in preparation for a host of 5k races I plan on running this summer. I’ve never been much of a runner, but the interval system worked really well for me and I busted out 1.78 miles in half an hour, a feat I never thought possible of myself, much less on day one of training. I was so excited to keep going, “I can really do this!”  I thought. And then life intervened.

I got hit with Norovirus, a very aggressive stomach virus, and was down hard for a full week. No solid food, a close relationship with the bathroom, and a whole lot of napping later, I lost 6 lbs of muscle and it took me two weeks to even feel like I could go back to the gym or go rock climbing. The first week I went back, I tried getting on the treadmill, ready to repeat my successes from earlier in the month, and got a rude awakening. I made it a whole 15 minutes in, which includes a 5 minute warm up walk, and felt like I was going to die. My hip flexors went all out of whack, and to avoid injury I stopped right there and went to do some post run yoga, and try to figure out what was happening to me.

I had to accept that my road was going to be a lot longer than originally planned and being discouraged wasn’t going to get me anywhere. I resolved that I would do as many intervals as I could, and try to add at least one more each running day. Finally, on Friday I had worked myself back up to the whole workout, with a quick breather because my cardio endurance is a little slower to catch up than my muscles, and I finally almost match my original success in that first workout.

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It may not look like much, but this is total success in my world

So now that you’ve heard my setback story what is my advice for you? It’s simple, you have to accept that at some point in your fitness life, you are going to get either sick or injured, and it’s going to force you to make adjustments. Here’s a little step by step that works best for me… (Keep in mind that I’m not a doctor, and this should only be applied to simple sickness or strained muscles, always get in touch with a real doctor for serious injuries)

  • Accept your circumstances without judgement. You got sick or pulled a hamstring, it’s okay! Take a moment to think if you were ultimately responsible for this, either by overtraining or not eating in a way that supports your current level of training, don’t beat yourself up over it, just don’t make the same mistake twice!
  • Give yourself time to recover. You need to allow your body fully recover from whatever your setback is before getting back out there full force. I took two weeks off to get nutrients back in my body before I even considered going back into a workout. Take this time to focus in on your diet to get your body back to its best self.
  • Work yourself back up to normal. Chances are, after a break of even a week, you’ve lost some strength or endurance. Try a normal workout, but listen to your body very carefully to figure out where you are, and  create a plan from there. Do you need to try and add more weights or sets each week, or one more interval in each work out?
  • Make a plan and stick with it. This might be a longer journey than expected, don’t try to take shortcuts or you’re just going to wind up back at the beginning after another injury. Celebrate the small victories and you’ll get back up to normal before you know it!

What is the worst injury and longest recovery you’ve ever dealt with? What advice would you have for those dealing with their own set back?

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