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How to get out of your head and into the gym to reach your fitness goals

The past few months, I had made great progress in my fitness goals: I was increasing my running endurance and speed and even got back into my pre-chemo clothes, after having gained about 12 pounds on chemo for breast cancer. This came after a series of stops and starts during 2019, as I had two surgeries and the requisite one month of no working out after each one while my body healed. I was so excited to be where I was, and then I made the decision to have surgery this past Thursday.

The surgery date was offered to me and I took it. But, I am surprised at how much of a funk it threw me into. I hate surgery. It's important and I have a skilled doctor who will be operating on me during this revision to an earlier reconstructive surgery, but the forced downtime is a challenge. It means going backward in terms of my progress in my fitness goals. And, honestly, they are mental health goals as well. Running, my favorite type of exercise, gives me a sense of freedom that can only be found by releasing a stockpile of endorphins while clearing my head on the treadmill. It is the most amazing me-time I can give myself -- and it is good for me.

You don't have to be in the midst of a succession of surgeries to feel this self-loathing when your workout goals are interrupted. You could have a series of stops and starts due to beginning a new job or having some other challenge that keeps you from working out.

Here's how to deal with the emotional fallout.

A little bit of self-pity is OK.

Yes, it's frustrating to feel as if you may never reach your ultimate fitness goal, whether it is to lose another five pounds or run a 5k. It's even more difficult to face when the reason for the setback seems out of your control. Feel that emotion and move on. Realize that what is in your control is getting proper nutrition, which will help you when you are able to get back to working out, and setting yourself up for success with a positive outlook. You will be able to resume your workouts and if you push yourself, you will get to where you want to be.

Be honest with yourself.

People often tell themselves they are too busy to get to the gym. I have done this myself. But, the truth is, if we want to be there working out, we will find a way to get there. We will find the time to do so. If you have struggled with staying motivated to workout, spend some time reflecting upon what is standing in your way and why you are choosing not to focus on your physical health.

Set measurable goals that will help get to back into the gym.

I have workout buddy who lives across the country, but we communicate each week to tell each other how we did with our workout goals. Each week we set new ones. This has been extremely helpful to me. It makes me set goals, and then I am accountable to them. When you do make goals, make sure they are SMART goals -- specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. So, for instance, I had been trying to increase my running speed on the treadmill, to I tell myself I will run three times per week for 30 minutes at 5.8 mph.

Enlist the help of a personal trainer.

If you can afford it, seek a personal trainer who will push you to do more and to be accountable to your goals; For those who have faced or are facing a cancer diagnosis, Livestrong offers personal training courses at YMCAs across the country. If there is no Livestrong in the area, or personal training is not in the budget, try enlisting the help of a friend, co-worker or family member who is as determined to reach fitness goals as you are. Then, you can hold each other accountable like my friend and I do.

Join a running group, sports league or bootcamp.

In many cities and neighborhoods, there are running clubs you can join, with scheduled group runs. That will help you get out of the house and get moving. Volleyball or soccer leagues, sometimes held through the local park district, could also be a way to stay active -- while making friends. Also, bootcamps are a great option for people who need a team atmosphere to working out. Groupon often has discounted bootcamp sessions, and they always show up in the sponsored posts on my Facebook feed.

Keep your eyes on a reward at the end of your fitness goals

One way I stay motivated is giving myself a reward for accomplishing my goals. This my mean splurging on a meal or dessert after you reach you goal weight. I definitely was not as concerned about taking cheat days or having an occasional bowl of ice cream when I was running regularly, because running is such an efficient exercise that it keeps the weight off, at least in my case. Other rewards could be a trip to the beach, or going to a movie. It doesn't have to be extravagant.

Wherever you are in reaching your fitness goals, remember how good you felt when you were focusing on your own health. Did you derive self-esteem and satisfaction from spending time on yourself? Getting yourself into the gym (or to the soccer field or running trail) is so much of a mental game. It is the first hurdle you need to get over when attempting to work on your physical health. Once you overcome it, working out will be so much easier, because you will have gotten out of your head and can now focus on your physical health.

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