Demoralized by a string of minor setbacks

Hello all,

I was really hyped about this season, back in September. I signed up in a local triathlon club, I started training running once a week and doing one maintenance short run once a week. My plan was to keep consistent with the cycling, with a lot of Z2 for now, swim once a week, incorporate in time a bit of strength training, etc.

I got a small calf injury about 5 weeks ago because of dancing (and drinking, which doesn’t help) in a wedding party. I have been trying not to overdo the running, but the calf is slightly painful after every time I run again. It does not hurt during the run though.

About three weeks ago, I went to Mallorca on a cycling trip. I did 3 days, 12 hours in total, third day was all easy. Perhaps I did push it on the second day, but the other two days were easy enough. After my return, I got a major mood and energy slump that seemed to coincide with big storms and a stark change of weather, so I thought “oh well, that’s some of the old seasonal mood disorder thing”. It might have been overtraining from the cycling trip though… either way, I stayed well clear of the bike and running shoes for a whole week until I felt better.

About now, when things were looking up and I was gradually getting back to the program, I’ve got a nasty cold and I’ve been almost a week coughing and having “below the neck” symptoms (flu and covid tests return negative). It appears that in the presence of a “wet cough”, training is not advised, so I have stopped again.

So, I have had inconsistent training and poor health. I am eager to go, but I can’t do much for now. I am really upset that weeks are piling up and I haven’t been able to be consistent for the last few weeks, and I keep getting injured / sick without that much training (I am doing about 7 hours on a good week, and no VO2Max work or fast group rides).

I am not sure if I am looking for sympathy, advice or what, I am just way pissed off with how things are going , I am so eager to resume training but can’t train right now. I am restless thinking of all the “lost” time. I’ll try to enjoy other stuff unrelated to exercise, but I had my mind so focused on this, and it’s been derailed by small but consecutive setbacks…




I relate and I am sorry. It sucks. I’ve recently bounced from injury to ill-timed vacation to personal life problems to terrible sickness. Everything went off the rails. My numbers tanked. It was awful. Then I did my first hard group ride in about a month last week and it confirmed my fears–it was an embarrassment.

It doesn’t feel like it right now, but it will come back. The illness will (slowly… oh so slowly) fade, and you’ll adapt to winter (even though it’s the worst!) and get back in a grove. Focus on taking care of yourself and doing what you need to do to get through it (nutrition, rest, etc.), whatever the “it” is at a given moment. The self-care side of things deserves just as much attention as a Vo2 max workout.


Really sorry to hear about all the setbacks. I know you must be frustrated. Especially since you’re trying so hard to take it easy and come back “right”. It may help you mentally to try just spending simple time outside when you can. Just go for a simple walk or even sitting on a bench somewhere out in nature. It’s miraculous what the sun and earth can do for our mental spirits.

I’d also recommend focusing on whatever else makes you happy in life. For me, it’s playing music (guitar), spending time with friends and family, reading a good book…that kind of stuff. The guitar time is particularly helpful for me because it gives me tasks and goals to fill the empty space training can’t fill at the moment. It can be any task though, depending on what you enjoy. Tinkering in the garage. Any form of art. Puzzles. Yardwork. Etc.

Best wishes to you. Try to stay positive! Things will turn around. And when they do, you will be all the more motivated to find your way back!


I’m also going to drumming lessons and I could fill the void with more practice. I am also reading more… Let’s see how long things take to get back to normal

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You’ve got to look on the bright side, it’s early in the season and you don’t have a choice but to get over your sickness. Once that’s done, you can start building again.
Rest up, drink lots of fluid, get better, then get back to it.

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I highly recommend giving ‘Rebound’ by Carrie Cheadle a read. She has another mental skills book that I also highly recommend, but Rebound is focused on the injury recovery process. I found it very helpful when I was sidelined for 2 months with health issues (didn’t have a timeline so wasn’t sure how long it was goign to last.)

TLDR; focus on accepting your current state, not worrying about where you ‘should be’, and focusing the energy you would normally be putting into training into healing and rehabilitation.


It will pass. Don’t worry about how long just take it day by day.
From someone who had a back/nerve issue that caused muscle atrophy in my right thigh it’s not fun not knowing how long. Took me weeks before I could lift my leg and a year and a half to get back to near normal. I’m currently battling a hand issue and today is the first day in 2 months I can hold my cell phone in my left hand. You just have to know it will pass with time.
I wish you a speedy recovery.


Ditto @Pbase!

One thing for sure is that it does no good to restlessly think about the “lost” time. It’s gone, so what is the point in thinking about it? I would focus on the things you can control and improve on and let the rest settle itself out. Everything in life is temporary :slight_smile:

I fractured my C7 traverse back in August 2020, going off a jump at a bike park… And it was awful, to say the least. 4 months with a neck brace and then a year’s worth of rehab to get back to feeling “normal” and like my neck was not going to break.

At the moment, I was pretty angry and cried quite a bit because I was worried I wouldn’t get to graduate and move to another country by the end of the year as I had planned. I didn’t even know if I would need surgery, so I was setting out to “failure” in my mind :sweat_smile:.

At some point, it occurred to me that life was maybe trying to give me a lesson. I’ve always felt in control and been able to accomplish my goals, but this time I was at the mercy of my injury.

We spend too much time thinking about where we want to be and get angry when things don’t go to plan instead of letting it flow a bit. it’s almost like we’re robots sometimes. Things did work out the end, and all planets aligned so I could graduate and move. But the lesson for me was to accept things for what they are and focus on the things that I can control.

You may have a cold today, or you may trip and twist your ankle the next because things are bound to happen. So is being consistent about being able to train every day exactly how you want it or persevering even when everything seems to be against you?

It’s never been about the end goal but the journey to it.


I understand your frustration, but try not to focus on the missed training and try to stay positive. These things happen. I had a three months slump last winter due to covid, some more sickness and then more sickness after that, still I got back to training in February and I ended up with my best year performance and result wise. I did all I could to stay positive, and once I could get back on the bike I used the motivation for what it was worth.

You don’t get overtrained from three days unless you were on the verge of overtraining prior to that. And people who doesn’t train at all also gets sick. Its the season for it. I have been lucky so far this fall with only one week of flu, but it can happen to anyone. Try not to let it get to your head to much :crossed_fingers:


Second what many above have said. Maybe you’d have a bit of luck tryong to move away from „where I should be“ approach, and try approaching every day as a new opportunity to become better than yesterday.

I had the same problem as you; with travel, illness, holidays etc. killing consistency. It is so frustrating to work hard for months to reach „where I should be“, only to get sneezed on by your kids and lose 3 weeks on a rolling set of illness. Hard to the point of becoming truly demotivating.

I overcame this by naming 2023 the year of „Fall down 7 times, stand up 8“ :slightly_smiling_face: It‘s cheezy, but it really helped me change my mindset from „I need consistency to achieve perfection“ to „I‘ll roll with the blows and make the absolute best I can with the cards I am dealt. Bring it on!“.

Funny thing is that I am now kinda amused anytime I get setbacks (e.g. broke my arm in a race requiring heavy surgery and months of revaludation, 3 weeks of back to back work travel with no chance to sleep let alone train, the usual series of illnesses,…). I just cry a bit, laugh a bit, and then get right back at it.

I have accepted I won‘t reach 100% of my potential as long as life keeps up the barrage of curveballs, but 90% is sweet enough and sure beats spiralling into a pity party and giving up :slightly_smiling_face:


Wow, this puts my current setback in perspective… Also, I like the way you put it and your perspective.

Thanks also to the others who replied to the topic. Initially, I expected just a little bit of sympathy, people around me don’t seem to get why not training can get to be demoralizing and just joke than I’m an addict (hah).

All the experiences and advice shared in this topic have been enlightening and useful to steer away from the “these weeks are completely lost” mindset. I’ve been doing different things, thinking about how to do things better when I come back… Thanks everyone!


I think we really are addicts @MiguelArino :smile: But everyone is addicted to something and ours is not the worst :joy:

I can completely relate to what you say about wanting a bit of sympathy. But the simple truth is that most people around you don‘t understand what drives you to want to be your best, and how frustrating it is when you get close and everything falls apart without you being able to change it. It is demoralizing like you say, it is hard, and there is not much you can do about it.

But please consider that sooner or later, all of us will go through rough patches. Some athletes you know may seem blessed with years of luck and consistency, while you may get knocked down again and again. It doesn‘t seem fair, but it is often completly outside your control. For example I guess you could chose not to drink and dance :wink:, but that may not be a life worth living; and if you abstained from that you may hypothetically have been knocked down by a electric scooter that same evening and end up with the exact same injury anyway.

One thing that may help is this: realise that we all get knocked down by life, and try to take unashamed pride in your ability to bounce back. Instead of thinking „I was strong before the injury and now I am at the bottom again. All that work wasted, what‘s the point?“, try thinking „I was injured, and despite of it I am fighting again!“. Accept the setback and take pride in the fact you are working on overcoming it.

Many give up in the face of adversity, and that is okay. But you can chose not to. The same people not offering you sympathy will not give you kudos for seeing it through, but it is still an amazing thing to do nonetheless.

And a minor set of setbacks may actually be harder mentally to overcome than a big one, because it may feel trivial and meaningless. You get a cold, you heal and muster the motivation to start back and then you get a „small“ knee injury after a week. 3 weeks lost, and there you are… Just remember: “Despite of this… “

Good luck brother, and come back stronger!


Maybe get a blood test done just to check everything is as it should be? It’s easy to make assumptions about behaviour, motivation and mindset when there could be an underlying physiological reason (even a minor one which is easy to “fix”)

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After 9 days without a single workout, i felt a bit better today, and did about 75 minutes of low Z2 on the trainer. So far so good, the power and the pulse lined up as well as could be expected and I don’t feel any strange symptoms or super tired. Let’s see how this feels tomorrow… how many hours would you think for coming back after the pause? I thought, if nothing else makes me feel like I should be stopping, perhaps cap it at 7/8 easy hours this first week and see how it feels.

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Would you say you are intrinsically or extrinsically motivated? What demoralises you the most, that you haven’t been able to train, or that lack of training means your fitness isn’t where you’d hope it would be?

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For me it’s both? Not riding or running kind of sucks , and there’s also the losing the fitness and not being where the triathlon club coach has been aiming the training sessions, so I think I’m left behind too …