training setbacks

Last week I planted my hand while playing freeze tag with the kids, failing to notice that my ring finger was stuck in the playground fort. All of me, save that finger, sprang forward in a tag attempt, fracturing my 4th metacarpal. This injury is known as a Boxers Fracture, which sounds a lot better than a Lame Dad Freeze Tag fracture.

I can hardly type with my right hand much less hold anything of substance. There will be no heavy pulls for a while. There goes chin-ups plus 150 pounds extra. There goes the 550 pound dead lift.

 [Boohoo I do remain thankful it's nothing worse.]

For now.

But I will run a little more. I will squat, tow the sled, 20-rep squat, single leg split squat, and, uhm, squat. Maybe I'll spend time in other ventures, like painting the house, reading more to the kids, or napping. And that's plenty.


Even if you truly have the best of intentions and full commitment to your health and performance, set-backs will happen. Life tends to get in the way of any worthwhile and challenging goals we set for ourselves. This is resistance, every ounce as real and heavy as the barbell I'm currently not dead lifting.

Resistance comes from both within and outside of us. It's not often within our control, which can be challenging for athletes and other fitness type folk. Motivation isn't much of an issue for us. But we gnaw on the edges of our God given limits until we meet our goals, lose interest, or injure ourselves. Sometimes we just get our fingers stuck in the playground.


It's unrealistic to think that you are going to improve on anything and everything each time you do it, just because you're trying hard. Whether running a mile, throwing a baseball, or playing the flute, personal records don't work like that. At least not for long. You will come down with the flu or a cold, strain something, or at least develop plantar fasciitis, lower back, knee, or shoulder problems. You will be busy and stressed and have difficulty finding time for training much less forging new limits.

When that happens, sometimes the absolute best thing we can do is take a week or two off. That's reasonable. You probably need a dose of perspective anyway.

But, we can almost always...

Save up to cash in

Maybe you're not even working directly toward the goal you originally had in mind, but you're working. Growing in some way. Feeding the system. Learning how to adapt. Tolerating discomfort. Improving, hopefully in a weak area.

If you really want to achieve something remarkable, find a way to be proactive and improve in some related way during the set-backs. It's like making deposits into your awesome bucket. And then some day, when you're feeling better, back to consistently walking down the original path, you cash it in. That's how 600 pound dead lifts and 90 mph fast balls and sub-5 minute miles and reverse 2-hand dunks go down.

A friend of mine who loves resistance training was having back pain and was short on time for a while. But he did something, which for him meant some leg press, lunge variations, rehab/mobility work, and 10 minutes of intense bike sprints once per week. Guess what happened when he started to heal? He ran a 5:30 mile, squatted over 230 lbs for 20 reps, and out sprinted everyone with relatively little serious power training!

He stowed away some savings, and then cashed in after training in his "ideal" way for a relatively short while.

And here's me rehabbing a fractured hand, "working the core" until I can pull again:

Single leg split squat 315 lbs X 12 (this is how you work the core!)

When you see someone do something remarkable, know that it's not all what they did right up to that point in time. For heavens sakes, don't you dare write it all off to genetics. Do not underrate what that person did when they were down or how they adapted when life threw them a big or little curve ball.

Everyone has set-backs. Reframe them into a time to reflect and grow.

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