Reacting to Setbacks

There are many reasons why individuals achieve a goal; great planning, action, and reacting to feedback and some of the biggies, but perhaps the biggest reason is how you react to setbacks, which in training terms usually means injuries.


From my observations most “normal” people get injured and react badly. Their reaction is often denial, they try to run through the pain, or they take some painkillers before each session rather than seeking professional advice and resting. Oftentimes the body will heal itself despite this less than optimal behaviour, but as many of you will know the injury can also worsen. With bad or persistent injuries there comes a time when you need to stop doing what’s hurting you and start recovering.


 I bet he’d make a great physio – my Mrs is so going to kill me for this!


By the way recovering doesn’t mean sitting on the couch eating pizza and drinking beer while feeling sorry for yourself. YOU NEED TO BE ACTIVE IN YOUR OWN RECOVERY, not one of these tender-headed types who helplessly lays there saying “fix me please”.


If at this point you’re wonder which professional advice you should be seeking; I will now refer you to a passage in my book “The Mighty Method” which is available on this site.


Where to Get Rehab Advice From?

I realise that I’m going off on a bit off a tangent here, but understanding who to go to for advice in this area could make or break you.

In the UK it’s fairly simple; we have Physiotherapists who work in our National Health Service (NHS) who are science based. Obviously, some are better than others. For example, I believe that many are too quick to go the Pilates route for back rehab, but the majority are very good. In the UK, if you have an injury which hasn’t cleared up within a couple of weeks, then you can get your GP to refer you to a physio.

There will be certain treatments that won’t be available on the NHS, as they haven’t been conclusively proven by best practice or research. An example of this is Shock Wave treatment for tendonopathy. There are limited places that will offer this on the NHS. However, research is constantly being undertaken and practice changes. Luckily at present, NHS physios are keeping up to date with this and will generally offer the most appropriate treatment for you.

Private physiotherapists are bound by the same code of practice if they are members of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, and have to be state registered under the Health Professions Council.  
Again, many are very good; however there will be a few who will put profit before best practice. If you have been seeing any private therapist, of whatever type for more than 6-8 sessions, and you have only been given some form of passive treatment (massage, manipulation, mobilisation etc.), and not much in the way of exercise advice, and you haven’t started to see some lasting recovery (i.e. benefits haven’t lasted more than 2-3 days), or you are told it will take X amount of treatment sessions to help you, then you could have been taken for a ride!  


There is absolutely no way any therapist can tell you exactly how many sessions you’ll need. They can say how many months it is likely to take to get better, based on how severe your injury was, how long your healing time was, the amount of time to gain strength, etc. which have been researched. Most of your recovery will be up to you, as strengthening and stretching can be done at home. You won’t necessarily need endless manual therapy.


In the US things are very different, and it is really dependent on your health insurance as to what you will or won’t get. 
Despite this relatively cheap system, the NHS is free at the point of delivery, many still insist on going to see those who, shall we say aren’t so concerned with pesky science. Chiropractors fall into this group, with both feet so to say. If you’d like more information about Chiropractic please read the excellent article here:   Now I’m not saying that all Chiros are bad, but the premise of Chiropractic is that the patient has blockages of their energy channels which need to be cleared. Apparently, clearing these blockages can cure anything from back pain to deafness; needless to say this isn’t the case.


Another popular rehab therapy in the UK is Osteopathy, loosely meaning bone therapy. The therapist will manipulate bones and bring them back into correct alignment. This whole premise fails to take into account the roll muscles play in keeping the bones where they should be. Now this seems pretty obvious to me; if the bones have been realigned by a therapist then as soon as tension is applied by the muscles the bones are back where they were, and the patients’ wallet is noticeably lighter. 


Going back to a previous point – if you aren’t getting longer lasting benefits than 2-3 days within 6-8 treatment sessions – think about going elsewhere.   

In the US I have heard this being called the parking lot test. The therapist treats the patient (we’ll assume a back problem), and when the patient leaves they are observed in the parking lot (for example); the question is then asked – have they gone back to their previous poor posture? All too often the answer is yes. 


In summary, manual therapy (massage, manipulation, etc.) can be very helpful, but usually there will be a certain amount of homework, as in exercise and stretching that you need to do. If the therapist talks only about coming back for more massage, or adjustments, or they say it’s going to take X amount of sessions, then that is a massive red flag. 


Get advice from a science based practitioner, and remember the ancient Greek maxim of “patient, heal thyself.”


Well Dear Reader, I hope you appreciate that little freebie, it might have saved you thousands.


Back to the article: once you have seen your professional of choice and you are diligently performing your strengthening and / or stretching routine then it’s time to make sure that you’re doing what you can to ensure that when given the all clear you’re ready to return to the heavy stuff as soon as possible. This means if you have a shoulder injury which is stopping you from doing heavy Bench Presses then at least keep your triceps strong. It’s also possible that you’ll be able to perform Dumbbell Bench Presses without effecting your recovery. This is the sort of info which your professional of choice SHOULD be able to help you with.


In my own training I have once again re-pulled my adductor, this tends to happen when you play with heavy loads. I can’t do Squats or Deadlifts, or even anything which stresses the hamstring / adductor area other than minimally. A couple of weeks ago the adductor re-tweaked from doing fairly light Step Ups for goodness sake!



All this means that all lower body training is out of a few weeks but I can still load my spine (see video) and I can work the hell out of my grip thus ensuring that when I do return to Squatting and Deadlifting I only need to get my lower body back to par, my upper body and mid-section will be ready to go.



At the end of the year I might not get that 500lb Safety Squat bar Squat at <100kg, my goal for this year, but it won’t be because I reacted badly to setbacks if I don’t.


Be Mighty (even when injured),