Earlier this year I had invasive surgery. Like most surgeries, it was a significant setback for me physically. I couldn’t workout for many weeks and my muscles had been severed during the procedure. When I coached a fitness and nutrition challenge three months later, I felt that my strength overall was only about 30% recovered. I didn’t appreciate how I felt or looked, but the reward of working with the team outweighed my personal struggles.

When the challenge ended, I went out of town, did an intense workout, slept in a different bed and consequently had a flare-up with my back. I have subtle scoliosis that has caused spinal issues since I was a teen. As always, it was painful and, once again, I could not workout. Instead, I walked, stretched (a lot), foam rolled and alternated ice and heat. It seemed like forever, but after about a week of TLC, the back pain dissipated. 

THEN, literally the next day, I re-injured an old broken toe. Seriously! When it stopped throbbing two days later, I finally stepped back into my home workout room, but I felt defeated. This series of events over several months had left me much weaker, with higher body fat, little stamina and no motivation. 

I sat down alone in my gym, wallowed in my frustration and let self-doubt overcome me. I thought for a hot minute about quitting everything, even my health coaching. I texted my husband and whined. I questioned my passions. How can I inspire others if I don’t feel adequate? I can’t even do a “real” push-up right now. I should just quit!

Then I remembered the other times in the past when I felt that I could not regain my mental or physical strength, yet I did. After I bulged discs in my back. After I gave up my love of ballet and gained weight in college. After three pregnancies and c-sections. After the stress of caring for my sick husband with three small children. After grieving his death and feeling like I would never get out of bed again. 

Each time, I knew that I had to pick myself back up, even with zero desire. 

When I sat in my home gym reflecting on those bittersweet memories, I chuckled. Here I am, once again, with a relatively minor setback, and I am considering quitting. Really? No. I will not quit. Even though I am almost 48 years old and don’t always love what I see in the mirror or on the scale, I am so grateful that the years ARE passing, and I am here with a beautiful family and healthy body. I have nothing to lose by trying; everything to lose by quitting.

So, despite my self-pity, I just did it. I started with an eight minute cardio warm-up. It felt really hard. Then I picked up hand weights and a band and went to work. When it was over, 45 minutes had passed, I was sweaty and buzzing with joy. I made a healthy dinner with two of my teens and felt blissful as the endorphins worked their magic. I took a hot epsom salt bath (essential for sore muscles) then slept well. The next day I went back into my little gym and did it again. And repeated that the next day. 

And that’s how it’s done. One small step, one day at a time. 

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever cross the finish line of my physical goals. Probably not. My goals are admittedly a little unrealistic, and time and gravity are working against me. But regardless, I will continue to push myself forward through each setback, even when I want to quit. Even when I don’t think I will ever “win.” So I can feel proud of myself and help other people on the same journey.

Setbacks are often unavoidable, but what do you gain if you give up? Nothing. What do you gain if you keep pushing yourself? So much. Feeling proud of yourself, healthier, more energized, less stressed, less depressed and anxious, and like a stronger, more empowered YOU. 


These are my top tips for getting motivated when you’re in a fitness slump:

Just show up

Even if you don’t have a plan or any desire. Tell yourself you will just do something gentle for 15-20 minutes. Go for a walk, ride a bike, stretch. Get started and you will likely want to keep going.

Schedule it in advance on your calendar

Even if it means getting up earlier or starting happy hour 30 minutes later, just do it. Make it a priority, like work and appointments.

Focus on the internal benefits of exercise

Usually the thought of losing 20 pounds or getting in shape is daunting. Instead, make a list of the internal benefits of being physically active: better mood, stress management, reduced depression, better sleep. Review that list regularly, and remember that you will change internally before externally.

Read more in this blog:

Five Ways to Make Fitness a Lifestyle | balanceisbest