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Embracing (or at Least Dealing with) Setbacks

Running is not a linear journey. Runners are bound to experience setbacks. This could include disappointing races, time off because of injury or illness, or not making as much progress as you hoped. When you experience a setback as a runner, here are four things you can do to keep moving forward!

Reimagine your Goals

When you experience a setback, make sure to reevaluate your goals. For example, keeping your original goals when you’ve had to take three weeks off of training because of injury is only going to lead to disappointment and frustration. Take some time to think about what is realistic for you now, is it signing up for a different race that gives you more time to train to meet your original goal? Or is it setting a new goal for your original race? 

Learn from the Setback

If you don’t learn from the setback, you’re bound to repeat it! Take some time to reflect on why the setback happened. Was it in your control or out of your control, and if there are things to do to prevent it from happening in the future? 

Seek Support

If you’re struggling after your setback or maybe not understanding why your setback happened it’s great time to seek support! If you’re struggling with motivation or reimagining your goals, a sport psychologist can help, if you’re struggling with figuring out how to jump back into training, a running coach can help! Identify what kind of support you need and seek an expert’s advice. This can save lots of time and frustration as you get back on track. 

Remember What you Love about Running

It’s important to remember that most of us run (at least in part) because we love it. When you’re dealing with a setback remember to focus on the parts of running you love that aren’t necessarily performance based. It might be the feeling of being outside on a cool morning, spending time with people in your running group, or the feeling of accomplishment that comes from making progress. As you get back on track, focus on what you love about running and be kind to yourself. We all face setbacks from time to time and although they can be difficult and frustrating they can also remind us why we are grateful for running!

This article originally appeared in the The Connection, TCM's weekly e-newsletter. Subscribe here.

Photo by Ben Garvin.


Hayley Russell, PhD, is a Certified Mental Performance Consultant, runner, and professor of health and exercise psychology at Gustavus Adolphus College. She is one of the team of Motion Experts TCM has gathered to help its subscribers and participants get the most out of their running. Have a question for Hayley: [email protected] or visit

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