Training | POSTED July 25, 2022

Setbacks Aren’t Stopping Us

We love training. We also want to keep training productively for years to come. It’s obvious enough that without challenge there’s no change. Setbacks do happen however. So what can you do when despite putting in your best efforts, nothing seems to budge?

This is where troubleshooting your training can give you insight into what might be holding you back. Setbacks aren’t stopping us, and they don’t need to stop you either. Today we’ll discuss five key areas to troubleshoot. We hope in doing so you will get the most out of your efforts. The five key areas are as follows:

  1. Recovery
  2. Nutrition
  3. Programming
  4. Pain
  5. Motivation

We will cover each area to varying degrees. Ideally you can take way from this article practical strategies to implement. This month we’ve also made sure our companion article covers the same topic but shares a unique and personal perspective. Make sure you give that a read too!


What do we mean by the term “recovery”?

Well let’s talk about another word first, “hormesis” [1]. In biology hormesis is defined as an adaptive response of cells and organisms to a moderate (usually intermittent) stress. Examples include things you may already be doing like exercise and dietary energy restriction.

People thrive on exposure to occasional stress. In the process of restoring balance after an appropriately stressful event, our bodies respond by growing, repairing and importantly adapting. Through adapting we become more tolerant to stress, stronger, and more resilient. Essentially hormesis is the positive response to stressors by your body and mind, when using the appropriate dose.

Programming and nutrition are built-in into the broader concept of recovery. I will address these other points later. Here I’m going to focus on low-hanging fruit here. Many people get caught in the weeds about what the best way to “recover” is and hyper-fixate on things like specific breathing strategies, massage tools, ice baths and more. There’s two things you can do today to improve your recovery: improve your sleep quality and practise stress management.

  1. Sleep quality: simply aim for consistent 7 to 8 hours each night with a routine bedtime.
  2. Stress management: whether it’s walking, meditation or reading a book in a quiet space – find some ways to downshift and unwind after a busy or stressful time.


Nutrition for the purposes of building muscle and maintaining a high training quality is simple. Although we can unpack which nutrition strategies are best, there’s only a few things people need to focus on. They are sufficient energy and protein intake. Expanding on energy intake, resistance training is anaerobic so carbohydrate intake matters too. We need sufficient protein intake to support both recovery and muscle building. We need sufficient energy to support training and the energy-rich process of muscle building overall. Below is a summary of some simple targets:

  1. Protein: 1.6g-3.1 grams per kilogram of body weight – somewhere in the middle of this range is the sweet spot for most people [2, 3].
  2. Carbohydrates: 2-3g per kilogram of body weight [4].
  3. Energy: 25-40 calories per kilogram of body weight.

The above targets are a range and do not take into account individual factors or goals. For instance, the energy needs for a 70kg female versus a 90kg male are likely to be vastly different. If you need help determining what targets you should be aiming for, feel free to contact us for advice.


This can be summed up with the following sentence: Don’t do too much too soon, after doing too little for too long. In particular however we encourage clients to build traction on a program gradually. Even when all else is equal, when individuals push exercises to an excessively high intensity (read: RPE 9 always), blindly focussing on adding weight or reps, fatigue creeps in. Good quality programming should minimise overuse and maximise fitness while minimising fatigue [5, 6]. It will involve the following:

  1. A variety of exercises, rep ranges and loading zones
  2. Gradual exposure to higher volumes and intensities
  3. Autoregulation
  4. Not consistently going to failure.

Lastly, we encourage individuals to be active outside of their strength training program. Doing so will yield a myriad of benefits such as improved stamina, helping maintain a healthy bodyweight and stress relief. These factors will ensure your resistance training is more productive.


Pain is never pleasant. We don’t wish anyone to be in it. Additionally, pain is a complex mechanism designed to protect your body. If you have the time, I recommend you watch this 15 minute Ted Talk here. What we can do with your training however is modify the stimulus. This might mean changing the range of motion, load, volume, tempo or exercise all together. Importantly, we don’t stop training. The benefits of exercise always outweigh the exceedingly rare negative experiences. On top of that, resistance exercise is incredibly safe [7, 8]. We cannot cover the topic of pain here exhaustively nor do it justice. Instead, remember that your body is designed to adapt and our goal is to help you always work from the correct entry point.


We can’t stress this enough – seeing results come from seeing things through. Behind any successful program is compliance. So, the important question to ask is, what makes someone compliant? Motivation alone isn’t enough. Riding the high of good-feels can only take you so far. Thankfully, we can look into more practical ways to help everyone stay the course [9, 10]. They include:

  1. Understanding the consequences of doing nothing
  2. Trusting that training will be effective for reaching your goals
  3. Maintaining a positive attitude towards training
  4. Having a positive trainer/client relationship
  5. Practising good communication
  6. Comprehending health literacy
  7. Adequate knowledge and putting that knowledge into action
  8. Accessibility to tools such as your training program and fitness tracker.

Although we said motivation isn’t enough. It’s still important to know your “why”. Moreover, training should be working towards that “why”. This is why we value things like feedback forms and check-ins, allowing for programs to evolve over time to be best suited and catered towards an individual. A participant’s active role and desire is incredibly important when fostering compliance.

Tackling your setbacks once and for all

Training setbacks don’t need to stop you from making progress. Instead they can be fantastic learning experiences. By reflecting on and developing new strategies, you can always be equipped to make long term progress. We hope today that you have a better grasp of the concepts of recovery, nutrition, programming, pain and motivation. If you have any other questions, reach out to the Ivy Training team today.


  1. nihms39393.pdf
  2. International society of sports nutrition position stand: nutrient timing | Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition | Full Text (
  3. International society of sports nutrition position stand: diets and body composition | Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition | Full Text (
  4. Nutrients | Free Full-Text | The Effect of Carbohydrate Intake on Strength and Resistance Training Performance: A Systematic Review | HTML (
  5. Effects of Resistance Training Performed to Failure or Not to Failure on Muscle Strength, Hypertrophy, and Power Output: A Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis – PubMed (
  6. Effects of Resistance Training to Muscle Failure on Acute Fatigue: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis – PubMed (
  7. Injuries among weightlifters and powerlifters: a systematic review – PubMed (
  8. (PDF) Injuries in strength training: review and practical application (
  9. Key Factors Associated with Adherence to Physical Exercise in Patients with Chronic Diseases and Older Adults: An Umbrella Review – PubMed (
  10. Factors affecting therapeutic compliance: A review from the patient’s perspective – PMC (