Rebounding From Setbacks

Keep up the tenacity, and never give up no matter what life throws your way, and your dreams will become reality! Learn how to bounce back from setbacks!
With the coming winter, your thoughts are already turning to spring and summer. You'd really like to finally get in shape and feel better about yourself before the next "swimsuit season." Like millions of others, you've longed for a better body all your life. After putting it off countless times, you've finally decided to go for it. You've joined a gym, got on a regular workout routine, and have made sound changes to your diet. The commitment is there, and nothing is going to stand in your way. The first few weeks pass by, and already you are seeing results.

You look ahead to you goal of having the body of your dreams by summer and think to yourself "piece of cake!" Then one day you are doing deadlifts, probably going heavier than you should, when all of the sudden you feel a sharp pain in your abdomen and groin. A visit to the doctor reveals that you have a double-hernia, and will require surgery. To make matters worse, you are told that you cannot weight lift for at least six weeks after the surgery. You see your goals fading fast before your eyes, and are on the brink of despair. You say to yourself, "now what am I supposed to do?"

In recent months, I have had to undergo similar adversity. The following is my personal account of the last year, and the setbacks I have dealt with. I'm using this simply as an example. Every life is different, and we all have different obstacles to face.

November 2001
I decided to make the commitment to changing my lifestyle in favor of bettering myself though bodybuilding. It is during this time that I gave up alcohol for good.

December 2001
My Army unit (C Company, 2-116th Cavalry) starts training for an upcoming deployment to Bosnia. A number of soldiers express interest in bodybuilding, and I approach Bodybuilding.com CEO, Ryan Deluca about following our story. I was making good progress during this time, and had dropped from a 42" to a 38" waist.

January 2002
C Company heads to Fort Polk, Louisiana for training. No gym is available for our use. In spite of this, we start a physical fitness program of our own, utilizing the resources we have in our barracks. Doorways are used as pull-up bars, bunk beds are used for doing both pushups and bicep curls.

February 2002
Most of the month is spent on the tank gunnery range. A routine physical reveals that there is something wrong with my inner ear. I am then referred to an ear-nose-throat specialist.

March 2002
An MRI scan revealed that what was thought to be an inner ear problem was in fact a brain tumor. An Acoustic Neuroma was growing off the balance nerve on the left side of my brain. This was revealed five days before C Company left for Bosnia, and another Sergeant had to be immediately selected to take my place. Bosnia, bodybuilding, and everything else took a backseat during this time, as I did not know whether or not I was going to live or die.

April 2002
I went into surgery expecting the worst. I wound up losing 70% of the hearing in my left ear, and was partially paralyzed on the left side of my face for about a month. However, my life had been spared and my hearing loss was the only long-term affect of the surgery. With my surgery complete, I looked ahead to when I could start working out again.

May 2002
I was allowed to start working out again. Though I could not go with C Company to Bosnia, I still kept in constant contact with them. It was also during this time that I started writing for Bodybuilding.com. My first column, a review of the new Gold's Gym in Meridian, Idaho is published during this time.

June-October 2002
I continued on my bodybuilding quest. I dropped from a 38-inch to a 34.5-inch waist, while keeping my weight around 205 pounds. During this time the Army cleared me to return to duty, with one slight mishap. Turns out I had been going too heavy on deadlifts one day and now had a double hernia, which would require surgery. It was also during this time that I met a wonderful young woman, whom I was now spending a lot of time with.

November 2002-Present
At the time of this writing (19 November 2002), I am still recovering from hernia surgery. It will be another month before I can start weight lifting again. It has been extremely frustrating, as I have started to put back on the body fat that I lost. I can't fit into 34-inch waist anymore. My girlfriend has been nothing but supportive of me through this, though she does like to make fun of my "man-boobs" that have come back.

Being a swimmer, she knows what it takes to stay in shape, and has been an inspiration to me to continue writing for Bodybuilding.com, as well as getting back on track and continuing in my quest for my perfect body. As of 20 November, the doctor has cleared me, and I have started my workout routine again, though I intend to be smarter about how much weight I should be lifting. I hope to have achieved most of my goals by next summer, however I will remain flexible for whatever Life throws my way. I will keep my progress posted.

Now that we've established what I personally have had thrown my way, those of you who've been in similar situations may be wondering, "How does one minimize the damage done?" When establishing bodybuilding goals, one always tries to set a realistic timeline in which our goals are achieved. If everyday consisted of nothing more than going to the gym, eating and sleeping, this would be a no-brainer. However, all of us do have lives, and setbacks are a part of that. What is important is what we do once we encounter a setback in our goals. In this article, we will discuss examples of what can set us back, and how we can minimize the affects on our bodybuilding goals.

Life's Little Curveballs

When starting a bodybuilding regime, one has a tendency to get excited and think that nothing will stand in our way. However, if you're like most people, something will happen along the way that will keep you out of the gym for a given period of time. Let's look at some examples of these, and how we can deal with them.

Injuries: Injuries are the most common reason for time away from the gym. When you know for a fact that you have received an injury, don't think that it will just go away, or worse that you can "work through it." Trying to work through an injury will only make matters worse. Get it checked out by a doctor IMMEDIATELY.

Rebounding: There are several things to keep in mind when rebounding from an injury.

    1) Respect the Injury / Follow Doctor's Advice Exactly.
    When recovering from an injury, always follow the doctor's advice to the letter. Remember, there is a reason they make more money than the rest of us! If the doctor says no weight lifting for six weeks, don't think that you can start up again after four. Also remember that just because you may not hurt anymore, that does not mean the injury has healed completely.

    2) Find Out Exactly What You Can Do.
    When the doctor is telling you the limits of your activities during your recovery, ask lots of questions. Find out if there are things you CAN do. If you cannot weight lift, but are still allowed to do light cardio, do that. The more you are allowed to do, the less difficult it will be once you are allowed to workout again.

    3) Maintain Discipline in Your Diet.
    If an injury prevents you from going to the gym, do not use that as an excuse to become complacent on your diet. Still eat as if you are still working out. However, you may want to cut back on the calories, especially if you were bulking up before your injury. Keep your protein levels relatively high, as this will help prevent you muscles from losing size.

Business Trips: If you are in a job that requires frequent travel, you may think that your perfect body is out of reach. While frequent business trips may require you to adjust the timelines of your bodybuilding goals, they should by no means stop you from achieving them.

Rebounding: Here are a few ways of keeping on track while away from home.

    1) Find a Gym (if possible)
    When you're on the road, find out if the place you are staying at has a gym. Most hotels in the United States now have some sort of fitness program available. While these are small, with limited equipment, don't use that as an excuse to allow your routine to falter. With a little initiative, you should be able to make good use of your time away from the gym.

    2) Eating Discipline
    Any fitness regime requires a certain amount of discipline. Additional discipline may be required in order to keep you diet sound while away. If you have access to a refrigerator, use it. Buy some nutritious foods to keep in your room, and avoid eating out if at all possible. If eating out is unavoidable, ensure you make the soundest decisions possible when ordering your meal. To help this, do a little preplanning before your trip, and research what foods you can eat from different types of restaurants that will keep you on track to your bodybuilding goals.

Sudden Time Loss: Events at work or home may spring up and suddenly the time you used to devote to the gym now has to be used for other things. You may have to work overtime; you may be in a new relationship; maybe you have a new baby to take care of, whatever.

Rebounding: Some things to keep in mind to get you back on track when all of the sudden it seems like you need 25 hours in your day.

    1) Review Your Time Management
    Time management is very important when it comes to both having a life, and achieving your bodybuilding goals. When events turn up in your life that suddenly seem to sap all your available time away, sit down and rethink how you distribute your time throughout each day. Try to adjust your schedule so that you can still fit your workouts in.

    2) Make The Situation Work For You
    This mainly pertains to if you are involved in a new relationship. When getting to know your new significant other better, see what interests they have in terms of physical fitness and bodybuilding. Tell them about your goals and what you have been doing to achieve them, and then invite them to join you in your quest. This can be a huge motivator for both of you. If your significant other is not interested, at least let them know what this means to you, and how much their support would mean. Simply setting the example can do wonders, and soon you may have a new workout partner after all.

Miscellaneous: These are just an example of some of the things life may through our way. Regardless of what circumstances may have derailed your bodybuilding goals for the time being, always remember to:

    1) Maintain sound discipline when it comes to your diet.
    2) Continue to workout within the limitations of your current situation.
    3) Whenever possible, make situations work to your advantage.
    4) Return to your workout schedule as soon as possible.

Keep these in mind, and above all do not use your situation as an excuse to become complacent. Too often we spend time feeling sorry for ourselves, and giving up on our goals and dreams. Instead we should keep our focus on how we can salvage them. The end result is what matters. Keep up the tenacity, and never give up no matter what life throws your way, and your dreams will become reality!