How I Learned to Love the End Goal

During the last six weeks I’ve had just enough energy to take care of my clients, focus on my family, and heal from my preventative double mastectomy with reconstruction. Today, I’m starting a series of posts that will give you a peek into what it’s like to undergo this big life event, because in so many ways, these lessons apply to everyone, every day.

Learning to love the process, not just the successes | Workout Nirvana

(1) Day after surgery, (2) Physical therapy in week 3, (3) At the IDEA PTI Conference, five weeks post-surgery.

I began planning my big surgery when I realized my life in the future would look a lot like the last 15 years: Tests, stress, and possibly worse (cancer).

Of course, there is no possible way to fully prepare for a surgery like a mastectomy. It’s traumatic for both mind and body, no matter how you slice it (oy). I could easily write a book about the long, slow road back to normalcy (though I post updates about my recovery here).

But despite what I witness among my coaching clients every single day, I expected my surgery comeback to be a neat, linear process, with milestones leading to more milestones. My recovery would be a logical sequence of small steps as outlined in the surgeon’s pre-op packet: Driving again by week three, lifting over 10 pounds after week four, and sleeping on my side at week two.

Oh, and I estimated that I’d be back at gym by week six or eight. Tops.

Instead, the recovery process is exactly what I tell my clients to expect: There are good days and bad days. In fact, at week six I have good moments and not-so-good moments – not days. I am still not to the point of having all good days with one bad day sprinkled in here or there. I have good mornings and sometimes good afternoons. And that’s an overall improvement.

During the early weeks after my surgery I quickly tired of lying around watching TV and became addicted to TED Talks instead. One talk in particular that resonated was this one by Emily Balcetis. Her studies showed that participants who kept their eyes on the prize and focused on the finish line during exercise perceived the exercise as easier and faster than those who were distractedly looking elsewhere.

I shared this TED talk with my coaching clients because I remind them to remember their “why” and one-year goals when setting smaller, weekly goals.

Keeping our eyes locked on the prize – the end goal – helps us reach any goal, because many small steps forward and back lead to long-term change. And just because every day isn’t stellar doesn’t mean we’re not making progress.

We all start and end at a different place and at a different pace. Progress isn’t linear with fat loss, muscle gain, healing, or any other process. But believe you can and you will – one moment at a time.

This article originally appeared on

8 thoughts on “How I Learned to Love the End Goal

  1. Thank you for continuing to provide inspirational content during this very difficult time! I hope your recovery continues smoothly.
    I recently had some surgery myself (not serious) which will require me to be out of the gym for 4-6 weeks. I was wondering if you could estimate approximately how much strength I can expect to lose and when I do go back, how long before I will be back up to the level I was at?
    Thanks for any input!


  2. I too underwent a preventative double mastectomy last October with two follow-up procedures; the last one was in late February. I am almost 100% and find that being in good shape before I started the process made all the difference. Yes, everyone is different and you just need to start from where you are. And I’ll be 59 in June-folks are pretty amazed by my recovery. Thanks for sharing your story, Suzanne-I could so relate!!


    • Thanks so much for sharing more about your experience Sue! So happy you are back to 100%. I find it reassuring to hear from women who’ve already gone through this and survived. I’m finding the expansion process to be super challenging, but I suppose they didn’t try to sugar-coat that. There’s plenty of things the surgeons don’t mention though- probably begs a blog post 😉


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