How to DEAL with Setbacks

We all know this scenario too well: here you are cruising along in life, everything is going great, maybe even better than planned.  And then all of a sudden, BOOM…everything falls apart.  Ok, maybe I’m over-exaggerating a bit here, but you get the idea.

This scenario can happen in just about every aspect of our lives: exercise, health, relationships, family, work, finances, etc.  And the reality is, it’s not a matter of if it happens, it’s a matter of when.  With this given, the question really is, how do we deal with major life setbacks?  In particular, how do we deal with major life setbacks when it comes to health and fitness?


If you know me, you may know I’m a fairly private person.  I love to write, but not particularly about myself or my life.  I used to be more of an open book, but as I’ve grown older (even that sounds old!), I’ve become more private.  However, on the topic of setbacks, I feel compelled to share just a little slice of my life for the sake of this article.

As of this week, I’m 35 weeks pregnant.  As far as pregnancy goes, I consider myself to be one of the “lucky ones.”  I’ve been feeling great, normal weight gain, minimal weird pregnancy symptoms and I’m able to just about carry on with my normal day to day life.

If it wasn’t obvious already, I LOVE to workout.  I mean, it’s literally my everyday life, working out and helping other people workout.  I love it because it makes me feel good, both mentally and physically and feeling strong (especially as a woman) is something that truly makes me feel awesome.

From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I was able to carry on with my workouts.  This was huge for me because the thought of not being able to workout, while my body went through all these new changes, was just a daunting thought.  As the weeks progressed, some of the exercises became altered to accommodate my changing body and the overall weight I was lifting became less.

Everything was going great, I was feeling good, my workouts were moving along, until BOOM….week 26 hit.  At a routine ultrasound, I learned I had a pregnancy complication that placed the baby at high risk for premature delivery.  As a result, I was told to take to a “couch potato” lifestyle and definitely no working out.

This news came as a major shock and upset for me, followed with the following thoughts, “how will I make it through the next 4 months…how will my body feel if I can’t move as much…how will I emotionally feel…will I lose all my strength…will I gain even more weight?!”   These dramatics carried through the next few days, internally with my thoughts and externally in my conversations with Jason, as I slowly drove him up the wall with the revolving rhetorical questions.

After a few days of self-pity, I came to my senses and realized that in terms of setbacks, this was a minor one in the grand scheme of life.  I would workout again, I would get back to my level of fitness pre-baby and everything would be totally fine.  However, I should also point out, that just because a setback is minor on the scale of life, it doesn’t mean that it should be discounted.  Setbacks are individual to everyone and we all approach the process differently.  However, the question still remains, how do we deal with life setbacks, particularly when it comes to health and fitness?   Here’s how we deal…

Assess the Situation 

The most important step to dealing with any type of setback is to assess the situation.  Once the fog has lifted, take a deep breath, step back and put your reality glasses on.  Is this setback short-term?  Is it long-term?  Is it unknown?  This will give you an idea of how to navigate the foreseeable future.  In my particular case, I knew that my setback would be roughy 4-5 months, dependent on post-baby recovery.  Not the shortest period but certainly not the longest period of time and one I could certainly learn to deal with.

How to deal with fitness setbacks


Allow Yourself Minimal “Woe is Me” Time

After you’ve assessed the situation in terms of timing, allow yourself very minimal “woe is me” time.  This one is important.  It is completely natural to feel down when life throws a hurdle your way.  Acknowledge that you’re dealing with an unforeseen setback and it’s ok for it to make you feel a certain way.  I certainly moped around the house for a few days following my doctor’s appointment.  Here’s the important part though, don’t let a few days turn into a few weeks or months.  Limit your feeling sorry days to a few and then pick yourself up, no matter how hard it is.  Otherwise, it can be really tough to pull yourself out of a slump.

learn how to deal with setbacks

Focus on What You CAN Do and DO IT

Here comes the turning point in any setback; focus on what you can do and do it.  This is something I often talk to clients about; it’s not about what you can’t do, it’s what you can do.  Maybe you’re dealing with an ankle injury, but you can still focus on upper body and core work.  Or you’ve been hit with a virus, but walking feels ok and is enough to keep your body going.  In my case, after I returned to the doctor the following week, I put together some very light exercises that were low-impact, and didn’t cause me to brace my core to run by my doctor.  I got a lot of “no’s” but I also got some “yes’s.”  This translated into a green light for me to take our dog Sonny on light, short walks and roughly a 30 mins very light “workout” that I could do at home.  By no means was it what I was used to doing, but at the least it was something.  Just enough to keep me focused, moving and feeling positive.


Be Consistent at Any Cost

The last step to dealing with setbacks (particularly with health and fitness), is to be consistent at any cost.  As we often write about in our articles, consistency creates and maintains habits. If you’re dealing with an injury, sickness, long stretch of work travel or such, strive to be as consistent as possible with your workouts or health plan.  Regardless if the workouts aren’t as intense or the frequency is less, the idea is to continue going through the motions so that you don’t lose the habit.  For me this meant daily light walks with Sonny, and my 30 minute home routine every other day.  It would have been easy to stop movement all together, but had I done so, starting up in November would be that much tougher.

Written by Sophie DeHenzel
How to DEAL with Setbacks

Photos Courtesy of (top to bottom): dudzinski/, flynt/, zsirosistvan/

About DeHenzel Training Systems: DeHenzel Training Systems offers In Home Personal Training services throughout Northern Virginia and Washington DC.  Aside from in home, personal training is also available at the office gym or outdoors at a local park.

Within Northern Virginia, we service Loudoun, Fairfax and Prince William Counties including: Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Ashburn, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Fairfax, Falls Church, Great Falls, Herndon, Lansdowne, Leesburg, Lorton, McLean, Oakton, Reston, Springfield, Sterling, Tyson’s Corner, Vienna and Woodbridge.

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