10 Ways to Bounce Back to the Gym After a Break

getting back to the gym after a break
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If you've been following along for a while, you know that fitness is/was a HUGE part of my life and that five months ago I had to take a break from the gym while I recovered from a shoulder surgery (from a non-gym injury, I might add). It has been a loooooonnnnngggg five months, but I'm back! As of May 1, I have been officially released to start running, ellipticalling, crunching and lifting w/my lower body. Hallelujah, Praise the Lord! I don't even like running but I ran - because I could - and I loved every step.

I was really worried that getting back into a workout groove would be difficult. Would I still enjoy it? Would it hurt? Would I expect too much from myself and get frustrated? Would I struggle to get back to where I was pre-op? Would I re-injure myself? Would I hate the commitment to working out now that it wasn't a part of my daily routine? Would I forget what I liked about working out in the first place? Would I.......you get it, just fill in the blank. Luckily, for me, I instantly remembered what I love about fitness. It hurts soooo good and I can't wait to feel good, too.

Needless to say, these last few months I've been taking notes on ways to get into a workout routine / how to bounce back after a break. Scroll on down to check them out!

shoulder workout

yoga outfit

running stairs

sprint workout

oklahoma city rooftop workout
Please ignore my arm flab - this is my surgery arm lol! 

workout clothes


1. Find Your Why
I think working out is 95% mental and 5% physical. Devoting your time and energy to working out and actually making yourself get out the door and to the gym is the toughest part! I think your "why" has to be something bigger than a tangible goal (like weight loss or finishing a race). For me, my whys are:
    - I want to maintain a level of fitness throughout my entire life (I'm saying I want to look like Jennifer Aniston when I'm in my 50s)
    - I want to be an inspiration and encouragement to others as my trainers and coaches have been for me
    - I want to feel good and feel proud

2. Set Attainable Goals & Long Term Goals
Goals are what get me started and what keep me going. Attainable goals (things like run three times a week for the entire month of May or complete a 5k) are what get you started and long term goals (like getting on the podium at a competition or completing a half marathon one day) keep you pushing. I am so motivated by lists and goals and checking things off so this is a big one for me. Since I haven't been very active since surgery, my current short term/attainable goals are pretty simple: build my endurance through running while I wait to be released to lift/crossfit again. My long term goals are to get back to competing...... I know that's a long ways away, so I'm working on what will help in the now and attacking my weaknesses.


3. Make a Schedule / Routine / Plan
Like I said above, I am Type A and I LIVE by lists and plans and schedules and itineraries. Sorry not sorry. When it comes to working out, this is KEY. There are plenty of days that going to the gym is the absolute last thing I want to do, but when it is a part of my day/routine and it is on the schedule, I'm gonna get myself there. Also, having a workout plan in mind before going makes it ten times easier.

4. Buy a New Workout Outfit
I mean, hello. Who doesn't love an excuse to buy new clothes? Every time I snag a new pair of Nikes or leggings, I'm always soooo excited to show them off them at the gym.

5. Create the Perfect Playlist / Find a Good TV Show or Audiobook
Whether you listen to tunes, watch Netflix or zone out to an Audiobook while on the treadmill, having something to look forward to is a game changer! There have been so many times that I dreeeeead spending 45 minutes on the elliptical but the thought of catching up on my current binge-worthy show (The Royals) makes it 100% worth it. I will find myself looking forward to getting my sweat on!

6. Join a Challenge / Find Accountability
If I'm ever struggling with motivation or dedication, joining a challenge or signing up for a month of coaching or finding a gym buddy will get my booty in gear immediately and keeps me on track. There are a ton of challenges out there like the EmFit Challenge, The NAKED Program, Beach Body, Whole30....you name it. I am pretty competitive, so anything that has a "competition" or "points" style to it gets me in the zone. Also, having a friend to meet you at the gym makes you force yourself to get there - no excuses!

7. Take it Slow
HELLO, talking to myself here. Don't go out too hot! I get really frustrated when I'm not good at something (or not as good as I once was). I have had to set my expectations low and really force myself to start slow and ease back into it.  If I jump in head first, it would be a recipe for disaster (injury, extreme soreness, etc.) and I'd burn out way too quick. To get started running again, I've been using the Couch to 5k (C25K) app. Even though the first few workouts are waaaaaay easy, they have been a great starting place and have slowed me down (in a good way) so that I can enjoy the process as a whole.

8. Don't Get Frustrated
See above. I am the QUEEN of getting frustrated. I'm very hard on myself and often times expect only the best. I've had to remind myself what all I've been through (and how long it took me to get "fit" in the first place). It doesn't happen overnight, but with time and steady effort, I'll be there again. Just take it slow and steady - it wins the race!

9. Remember What You Liked About Exercise in the First Place
When you're feeling discouraged, remember what you love about working out. Think about the races you finished, the competitions you killed, the PRs you made, how a good workout makes you feel accomplished and proud....look back at pictures and remember the good times. 'Cause there are better times ahead!

10. Celebrate Achievements, Big & Small
Going back to those attainable goals - set a reward for each goal. When you meet a goal, get a new sports bra! Give yourself that extra glass of wine. Treat yourself to a cupcake. You get the picture. Celebrate the process you've made and give yourself a reason to keep working hard. The bigger the goal, the bigger the reward!

athleisure outfit

bouncing back to the gym after a break

bicep curls

workout warmup

okc skyline

strappy back tank and sports bra

onzie leggings

workout stretch

gym outfit

run okc

jumping workout

I reeeeeally watched my diet while I was recovering so luckily I don't have a lot of weight to lose. However, I have a ton of muscle to gain back. I know it will take time to get back to where I was, but I'm excited to use this time to really focus on my olympic lifting form and my endurance - two things I know need work.

Have you ever taken time off from the gym? Due to injury, illness, pregnancy, LIFE, etc.? I'd love to hear any advice you have on getting back into the workout groove and sticking with it.

Thanks for reading!


Photos by Lisa Mathews

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