As 40+ guys living in the real world of work, family, and our own not-bulletproof anatomy, setbacks to fitness and nutrition plans are inevitable.
In the last decade, mine included plantar fasciitis (foot/heal pain), a strained rotator cuff, and sporadic right knee pain. Not to mention, crunch times at work that constrained exercise as effectively as any injury.
With “experience being the best teacher,” OlderBeast tenets of fitness variety, workout/recovery sequencing, and personal time prioritization help minimize such setbacks. But still, they’ll happen. So here are a few suggestions for dealing with setbacks in a way that minimizes impact, and even gets longer-term benefits from them.
1. Don’t let injury or workout interruptions have pile-on effects that set you back more than necessary.
⇒ If you can’t run for a while…don’t let that prevent you from keeping up your cardio fitness. Swimming is an awesome substitute and nearly always will be OK for any running-based injury; cycling often is as well.
⇒ If a sore shoulder prevents some parts of your strength routine…don’t let that keep you from working legs and core. Also, carefully figure out what else is possible for your upper body. Maybe you can still do curls, or lat pull-downs, for example.
⇒ If demands of life really, truly make your normal exercise not possible for a short period…don’t “wallow” and compound the problem by eating poorly. Stay strong on nutrition. And, still look for even 15 minutes a day where you can be physically active. Don’t think of a workout as “45-60+ minutes, or nothing.”
If nothing else, WALK (up the stairs at the airport, back to the hotel after dinner, for a longer-than-normal nightly loop with your dog, etc.).
2. For an injury, get active in figuring out what caused it, and make a concrete plan for both Do’s and Don’ts
7 billion people on Earth means you’re not the first to have this problem, man. So researching do’s and don’ts for recovery is relatively easy.
The harder part is actually doing the Do’s as well as avoiding the Don’ts. The “avoid” remedies tend to get done more than the “do this to help recover” ones.
It’s psychologically and behaviorally easier, for example, to decide “OK, I won’t run for a while” than it is to also act on “I’m going to do these exercises to strengthen/balance my leg muscles and glutes, and avoid this problem in the future.”
Sure, some injuries are simply from overuse or overexertion…but especially once you’ve reached the OlderBeast threshold, many of them are symptoms of an underlying weakness or imbalance that you can fix, brother.
Experiment with active steps to help yourself get better.
3. Finally, stay positive by thinking of a few silver linings that setbacks can bring.
⇒ They force us out of a comfort zone to try something new and complementary. E.g., I really got committed to swimming as a core part of fitness because of running injuries. Now, I’d never give up swimming.
⇒ They remind us that we’re fragile. Or at least that we tend toward fragility, unless we actively seek diversity and all-over strength/flexibility from fitness.
This is not a fun reminder…but it’s a great motivator to get thoughtful about how your workout regime for the future will make you less vulnerable and more resilient.
⇒ Once recovered and back to activities you’ve missed, you get the positive feedback of getting back into shape for that activity. Being on an upward ramp of performance feels great…and that feeling is a rarer commodity when you’re not 25 or even 35 anymore!
With your thriving in mind, I hope you architect a “sustainable for decades” fitness/nutrition plan that consciously avoids setbacks, of both the physical and time-pressure variety. Helping you do that is one of OlderBeast’s main missions.
But when setbacks do occur, I hope the ideas here are useful to you. As always, I welcome feedback on how I might further help here, gents.
“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up.” (Vince Lombardi)