Overcoming Adversity, Setbacks and Obstacles in Your Training Program: The Mindset to Succeed

Never give up. Never, never, never, never give up.

Although Winston Churchill spoke these words during wartime to rally England, they aptly describe the mindset necessary to reach your health and fitness goals. There will always be roadblocks and obstacles in your path, but those who are successful in life find ways to get around them. And so can you!

Most of us have had to deal with layoffs from our workout program at some point in time. Injuries, illness, family problems, work stress, chronic pain, long-term health issues and even surgeries can disrupt your well-planned workout goals. It can be depressing to see hard-earned results slowly fade away. Many times this leads a person to give up, but I have witnessed many amazing comeback stories with my clients. With the right mindset, it’s possible to end up in even better shape than your were in before the layoff happened. What does it take?

Positive attitude and persistence, along with a willingness to learn , adapt, and be a little creative.

It’s been said that if a wall lies in your way, you have several choices. You can scale the wall, go around it, tunnel under it, or even blast your way through it. In other words, you have many options when confronted by a problem. If one solution doesn’t work, you move onto another. And another. And when it seems you have exhausted all options, get a second opinion. Talk to a friend, family member, or professional. There may be an obvious solution that you have overlooked. How many different ways are there to solve an algebra problem? There is always more than one way to arrive at the correct answer. Persistence and perseverance are the key.

Growing older can lead to the inability to do certain activities. But this doesn’t mean you have to throw in the towel! Just because you may no longer be able to do squats due to back problems, this doesn’t mean the lower body can’t be worked effectively. Exercises on machines with back support, high-rep sets, dumbbells, stability balls, balance boards, and other tools can give you an equally effective workout and results. Our bodies thrive on variety-get creative! Endlessly repeating the same routines leads to plateaus, staleness, and burnout. Can’t handle high-impact cardio activities anymore? Knees, back and joints can’t take the pounding? You can get equally effective cardiovascular and fat burning benefits from low impact elliptical trainers and bikes found in most gyms.

Sometimes an injury or condition can lead to the discovery of an activity you hadn’t considered before. I never tried yoga until I started experiencing some lower back problems a few years ago. I found incorporating one day of yoga into my workout program took care of my back, as well as increasing my flexibility, balance, and coordination. The stress release and relaxation were an added benefit, and I also found this addition to my workouts led to better results in my weight training.

It all comes down to attitude-focus on what you can do, not what you can’t. We all have limitations, but everyone can make the most of what they have. Let your limitations spur you to greater creativity and trying new things in your workout. The key is to capitalize on your strengths, while working around or conquering your weaknesses. Start out with activities you can safely perform, and then add more challenging exercises in gradually as you progress. I work with a lot of clients coming out of physical therapy, and it’s amazing what they can achieve with proper guidance and a willingness to work.

Regardless of the length of time and nature of the layoff, there are several steps you can follow to get back into a workout program:

1. If necessary, get a doctor’s or physical therapist’s clearance to begin an exercise program. They can also advise of activities and exercises you will need to avoid, based on your current physical condition and health status. Even if you are in relatively good health with no known medical problems, it doesn’t hurt to get a complete physical if it’s been a few years since the last one.

2. Analyze your current fitness status and where you want to be. What steps will be necessary to achieve your goals? How did you get in shape before? What worked for you? If you did it before, you can do it again. Write down a list of your goals, and break them down into long-term and short-term. Short-term goals of a week or month help break down the longer term goals into manageable pieces, and will also enable you to see progress.

3. Visualize the final end product of your goal. What will you look and feel like? Post a picture of yourself in your best shape somewhere you will see it every day.

4. Educate yourself. There is a wealth of information online, in print, and through many types of media.

5. Need an extra push to get started? Hire a qualified trainer to assess your condition and set up a progressive program. Try a one-on-one session with a yoga or pilates instructor. Your mind and body will appreciate the variety.

6. Stay focused and don’t become discouraged. You didn’t become out of shape overnight, and the process of getting fit takes time. Celebrate each small goal you accomplish with some type of treat for yourself-a weekend getaway, a night at the movies, a gathering with friends.

7. Surround yourself with positive people. Encouragement from family and friends can really make a difference in your progress. Avoid negativity and situations that may cause you to lose sight of what you’re trying to accomplish.

8.Never give up.

Overcoming adversity and the challenges life throws at us can often lead to accomplishing even greater things than we thought possible, awakening us to new possibilities and opportunities.

As a famous American once said:
“You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”
-Walt Disney