I hurt my back in the gym this week. My initial reaction was one of frustration, because I’ve been here plenty of times before. This is going to mean a painful week of not doing much – followed by a couple of weeks of walking and then gently getting back into things. I’m probably six weeks away from training properly.
For a few hours following the injury, the frustration turned to anger. I was so pissed off with facing the reality of a setback. My mind started to go into a dark place. Is this going to turn into six months of pain, like I’ve experienced before?
But, then I surprised myself. I took a step back. I can’t let myself think like this. OK, it’s fine to feel sorry for myself for one day. But, that’s it. Now I have to take this situation by the scruff of the neck, think positive and move forward.
And that’s exactly what I’ve done. As I look back on how I’ve had to think about this setback, a framework became clear to me.
There’s always a silver lining
It sounds cheesy, but it’s true – there usually is a silver lining. Sometimes you just have to stop being pissed off to notice it.
I’ve been struggling to shake off some pain in my shoulder and hand recently. There’s not quite enough time between weights sessions to give them the rest they need. In the five days I’ve not been able to train, the pain has already reduced a lot. This period of rest is perhaps exactly what my body needed right now to shift these smaller injuries.
Take the learning
Every time I get an injury, I’m able to reflect and see why it happened. Whilst it’s frustrating not to notice in the moment, it becomes a learning moment that will make me stronger going forward.
This week, I switched my usual warm up for some back core endurance movements I want to focus on. Whilst these movements are exactly what I need to do for long term back health, they are not the best warm up. The best warm up is one that prepares me for the session ahead.
I’ve been able to get stronger on the landmine squat for the last 8 weeks. My previous warm ups were great, because they prepared my body specifically for this movement. Everything had been feeling so good. It’s not a coincidence that as soon as I removed my specific warm up, I injured myself immediately (literally, on the descent of the first rep!).
I just got a very painful reminder on how important it is to warm up specifically for my workouts.
You get to come back stronger
Setbacks suck, but if you take the learning, you absolutely will come back stronger.
Here’s a visual I stole from the internet that describes that really well:
Once I’m able to get back into things, I can guarantee I will do my specific warm ups with twice the resolve, and twice the intention. I’m gonna be the WARM UP GUY. I’ll be more prepared going into the training session than ever before.
It’s an opportunity to re-prioritise
If you ‘re no longer able to do X, it now becomes an opportunity to focus on Y.
I’ve been procrastinating on stretching my chest every day to help with the shoulder pain. I now have no excuse. This is the perfect opportunity to double down on this and make it happen.
Work is also going through a very busy period. When this happens, I always struggle to balance work and life. Less time in the gym means it will be easier to give work what it needs in this busy period.
I’ll also triple down on the base of the pyramid.
Look, I’m going to be fine. If I look at the big picture, this is nothing more than a mere blip – one that will only make me stronger. That’s how I need to look at it. I will simply redirect my focus and discipline towards what this new situation needs. And, do it with a positive attitude.
Perhaps one of the best things to come out of this setback, is this framework for dealing with a setback. Next time I get hit with a setback, I’ll be thinking about these five things:
- Allow myself to be pissed off – but only for a very short while
- What’s the silver lining?
- What’s the learning?
- How will it make me come back stronger?
- How will I now re-prioritise?
As soon as you get clear on these, the comeback can begin!
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