"Positivity can be a major strength but you must live in reality."
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'Setbacks are part of being successful': How to bounce back from problems with your training and diet
In his latest column, Jonny Holland looks at how to deal with setbacks and get your training back on track.

SETBACKS ARE PART of being successful. Our perception of successful people is that they had it easy and in almost every case this is wrong. Learning to deal with setbacks and making a positive change is what separates these people from everyone else.

Dr Aine McNamara of Grey Matters, a ‘pracademic’ in performance coaching, speaks frequently about the ‘Rocky Road’. Those that experience setbacks on the way to success learn how to be resilient and how to stay at the top when they get there. Those that don’t experience challenges early in their development won’t know how to deal with it and when a setback finally happens, they can fall way behind as a result.

We have all experienced setbacks with training and diet and continue to do so. But how should you deal with it?

I’m a big fan of staying positive. That’s very easy when life is going well but you must be able to find some positives in tougher situations. If an injury is holding you back from doing the training that you enjoy, try to find another way. Just because you’ve hurt your knee doesn’t mean you can’t continue to do upper body strength work, upper body conditioning, single leg work, mobility or work on some of your weaknesses.

This is something that I regularly have to do because of my hamstring injury and it can be tough. For me it’s about setting a different goal or finding another focus and going after that in a positive sense. Try not to focus on what you can’t do and focus on what you can improve. That is something I tried to do during my rehab with Munster as well.

All too often, when dealing with nutrition clients, they focus on the negatives. From week to week you might be up or down some weight. What’s most important is how much you’ve changed from the start. When someone is up a pound they initially think it’s fat gain, despite the scales being more variable than that. What people fail to remember is that they might have been down five pounds over the last 10 weeks and the net result is that they’re still down 4 pounds in 10 weeks. If you could do that every 10 weeks then losing weight would be easy. Continue to focus on the process and the outcome will look after itself.

Positivity can be a major strength but you must live in reality. Everyone experiences setbacks. Learning how to deal with them is key. Psychologist Rob Yeung speaks about ‘If and then’ statements. This is to prepare you for when things go wrong and to make sure you have the answer for it. For example, if there is a work lunch and there’s no healthy option on the menu how will you deal with it? By writing out some ‘If and then’ statements you will be able to deal with this and move on easier. For example, “If I can’t get what I had planned then I will get something that I enjoy and reduce my calorie intake later in the day to balance it out.” You can get more specific with these when it is your own situation.

Don’t start again on Monday. If you fall out of a healthy eating routine you don’t need to prolong the next healthy meal and spiral into a frenzy of overeating because you’re afraid to get back on track. Always have a next meal focus. You’re never more than one meal away from being back on track. This will create a healthier relationship with food instead of continuing on the restrict and binge cycle that leaves you stuffing your face for three days at a time before restricting everything but chicken, rice and broccoli from Monday to Thursday again.

If you’ve fallen out of the habit of eating healthy or exercising then it is best to start with something manageable. Create the habit again. Don’t turn yourself off by going for a two-hour gym session and not going back again that week. Start with 30-45 minutes of lighter intensity activity and leave the gym that day knowing you achieved something. Build on that for the next day. Your routine will be back on track. Something is better than nothing.

If you find that you experience a lot of setbacks in your diet and training then maybe you’ve gone too hard too soon. You might want to do the most optimal programme available but if you can’t stick to it, then it’s not right for you. A programme that is 80% optimal 100% of the time will give you better results than 100% optimal some of the time. Find something that you can adhere to in the long term.

If you have any tips on how you deal with setbacks with diet or nutrition or want to share your own experiences, feel free to leave a comment below.

You can follow Jonny’s journey over the next 12 weeks right here:

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