My Fitness Journey Part 3: Goals + Guilt

making nice in the midwest fitness journey

Whew! January is halfway over, and I still haven’t made any New Year’s resolutions! Have you? I tend to shy away from January resolutions because I figure if something is important enough to me, I wouldn’t have waited until the new year to make a change. But last January I was so inspired by friends’ journeys to becoming healthier (including losing weight for aesthetic purposes), that I decided to get a YMCA membership and work on my own fitness. One year later, and I’m still actually using that membership. Go me! But I have a little confession. I fell off the fitness wagon for a few months in the Summer and Fall. But I learned some things! I picked myself back up. And now I want to offer you some advice and encouragement in case you need it. (And don’t we all?)

I told myself that my fitness journey didn’t have an end date. This is a lifestyle. Blah, blah, blah… everybody says it. I shied away from setting goals and dates because I was worried I’d become so focused on the goals and dates that I would view the entire endeavor as a short-term project that should be completely full-steam ahead. I told myself it wasn’t a race, but I still burned myself out! I was working out too much and being too strict with my nutritional intentions that I made myself feel like I failure when I slipped up or took a week off. One week off turned into three, which turned into four, and then I sort of just quit working out at all, which in turn made me much less likely to make good choices at the grocery store.

From July-November I did pop into the gym once or twice a month out of guilt. But I also engaged in quite a bit of overindulging in junk food and sweets to deal with my YOLO feelings when I thought perhaps my cancer had returned with a vengeance. (I had received bad results from a follow-up scan, which ended up being nothing to worry about, but that’s a story for another day.) I became reacquainted with bad habits during this time, and in five months, I had gained back 10 of the 20 pounds I lost from January-June, and a decent amount of muscle mass. And, of course, I felt like a failure. Feeling like a failure isn’t very motivating, turns out. Feeling like a failure kept me reaching for the Double Stuffed Golden Oreos.

After a while of being disappointed in myself, and frustrated with how my clothes were fitting, I figured the best thing to do was to pick myself back up and start up again where I had left off! I actually felt weird going into the gym again, like the regulars would judge me for my time off, or like they would actually notice I had to decrease the weight I had been using before. Ha! What a thought. I had to shake off those weird insecurities and shame and get back into beast mode where I didn’t care about what anyone thought, and focus on my own goals.

Wait, goals? What goals? I thought unrealistic goals were what had knocked me down in the first place? It’s difficult to say what happened, really. Maybe it was that I had achieved success to a certain degree, found it easier to back off, and then felt like I had backed off so far, it would be too difficult to get back into it. Or maybe it was that I thought my goals were unrealistic. Feelings of self-doubt told me I’d always have a big belly, I’d never be able to run that fast, or I’d never be able to squat like that one girl… I think it was a combination of a lot of things. But it came down to just settling for who I was, instead of who I could be.

I have decided to quit focusing on what I could look like in a year, and start thinking about what I can DO in a month. I’ve decided goal setting IS for me after all, but only when it comes to what I can achieve. Achievements don’t define me, but they do empower me. The scale doesn’t empower me. Looser pants don’t empower me. Sure, those things can make me feel nice in the moment. But that doesn’t hold up over time. So for 2017, I have decided to set one goal for each month which will encourage me to challenge myself with my fitness in a way that is attainable, but also requires me to be consistent with my workouts and push myself a little (not a lot).

January’s goal is to run 80 miles. I decided this is achievable, because on good weeks, I’ve been able to run 20 miles. Multiply that by four, and I could get in 80 miles if I put in the work every week, even when I don’t feel like it. So far I have ran 56 miles and am easily on target to reach my goal by the end of the month! I’ve also decided what February’s goal will be. I’ll still be running, though not as much (and I won’t be tracking my mileage), because I’m aiming to do 2 leg days a week in addition to one day of biceps/triceps/shoulders and one day of back/chest. This is a big deal, because I work really hard on leg days in the weight room, and I usually have trouble walking and sitting down the next day. Two leg days a week would be a lot to stick to for a whole year, but I could do it for the shortest month of the year, right?!

Feeling successful by hitting smaller, achievable goals helps set me up to make good choices with my nutrition (allowing indulgences more than once a week), and in general gives me so much confidence! My body is continuing to change, which is wonderful to see, but more importantly I am proud of myself for what I can do, rather than how I look.

(P.S. The top photo is from last Summer. I’m finally back at that weight and feeling stronger than ever!)

10 Responses

  1. Alicia Meulensteen says:

    Kudos for setting fitness goals that are more about health and fitness and less about the scale. Throwing away my scale was incredibly powerful for me. Once I started setting goals based on how I could use my body–run a marathon, lift a certain weight, etc–it really flipped a switch on how I saw the entire purpose of exercise. Now I focus on how I *feel* when I exercise, not on why I should exercise (to earn something to eat, for example). It has helped me get so much more in tune with my body, learn what kind of exercise works for me, and even try new activities just for fun–imagine that!

    • Mandi says:

      It’s such an incredibly empowering shift in my thinking! Taking care of your body because you love it, not trying to force it into submission because you hate it. :)

  2. Amy Lynn says:

    This so close to my personal story it’s crazy! I’m really having a hard time getting back into the routine of things, and even though I have some bigger, long term goals, I think I need to break them down into smaller, more manageable steps to get me there. Thanks for sharing this, it’s giving me some good ideas and motivation!

    • Mandi says:

      Definitely! Achieving small goals along the way builds confidence. We should be proud about the process, not the reward. And besides, being fit never has an end date, unless you like starting over again. :) I’ve learned short term goals that are fitness-related give me something to get excited for and work towards in the gym. But one-month at a time is best, or else I get bored, overwhelmed, or just over-it.

  3. Stephanie Wheeler says:

    Thanks for this, Mandi!

    I started a 4-5x a week bootcamp back in October, and it has pretty much changed my life! I’m now at the studio by 6am, and I almost always get 4 days in, and I rarely skip. When I do skip, though, I totally guilt myself! I beat myself up, maybe out of the fear that if I don’t, I’ll lame out and quit going. It’s become such a habit now, though, that the only way I’d quit is if I just couldn’t afford it.

    Also, there’s been an issue that I’m not losing weight like I thought I would. I am losing inches, which I know are equally as important, but I weigh more than I did this time last year. It’s hard to see the number on the scale climb, even though I know I now have more muscle than I’ve ever had.

    Anyway, thanks for putting this out there. It always helps to hear others’ stories about living a healthier life. XOXO

    • Mandi says:

      Steph! That’s so cool. Skipping a workout usually makes me feel so guilty. Unless I planned on skipping. :) I haven’t lost much weight in the past few months, but I see my body changing. I too have been frustrated! I’d say 40% of me is disappointed. The other 60% is excited about what I can do that I couldn’t do before. ;)

  4. Nicolet says:

    Way to go Mandy. I recently started playing tennis, Ik life long dream and now at the age of 38 I finally staterd together with my husband. And its fun, but also makes the need for being fit greater, Because if I want to play I have to beable to to so. I cycle everywhere and walk for 20 min to half an hour.

    • Mandi says:

      That’s a wonderful perspective! I used to think that I would play sports to stay active, but if you want to go about it the safe way (especially after your mid-20s), you need to get in shape in order to play, not the other way around! My husband tore his ACL twice in the past 5 years, and we’ve learned that our bodies aren’t capable of as much as they used to be, unless we work hard at it. Sigh.

  5. Kamila says:

    Hi Mandy!!! We are not robots or super humans, we are not perfect, our weight fluctuates, we change, we have different priorities, things happen, life happens! It’s nothing to be ashamed of or feel guilty. Sometimes we just need a break and maybe new motivation? Anyway, good luck and take care!

    • Mandi says:

      Oh, for sure! I don’t feel guilty when my weight fluctuates. I’m sure I gained weight over the holidays, and I didn’t sweat it at all. (Didn’t weight myself either) I guess what I was trying to say got lost in all of my words… but the important thing I learned from my frustration with myself has more to do with setting fitness goals that I can get excited about, that are realistic to achieve, and also that are short term goals so I can meet a goal, get excited about it, and then move on. When I set goals and don’t meet them, I end up feeling like a failure. It happens far too much when it comes to fitness, so I’ve been reevaluating how I approach it altogether.