4 Ways to Deal With Guilt About Not Exercising

youhere are many reasons why you might want to skip a workout (or two, or three) ranging from feeling bored with your period to preferring a quiet night catching up. High school. As normal and valid as it is, you may still notice feelings of guilt over missing out on training.

You’re not alone. Reddit is full of posts asking users how to deal with their regret when they don’t exercise. A pre-COVID study even found that 78 percent of participants felt less fulfilled when they skipped a workout.

One source to blame is fitness culture. You’ve probably seen it: the pressure in magazines, ads, and other media to “don’t take days off” and “crush your workouts.”

But those messages largely benefit companies that want to make money, not you or your health. Even some personal trainers aren’t fans of this kind of rhetoric.

“Our fitness culture places an enormous (and unnecessary) emphasis on following a specific program or maintaining a ‘streak,’” says Rachel Trotta, a NASM-certified personal trainer. “This puts pressure on people to have a high level of adherence to training. , which can trigger anxiety if you struggle with perfectionism.”

She adds that the anxiety, and even embarrassment, that can result can also lead us to put off future workouts. Exercise can become a big “thing to do” in our minds, and instead of just putting on our shoes and going for a walk, we wait until we feel up to a high-intensity interval session, but that’s starting to be every day. more difficult. do. It’s a terrible cycle of guilt, then another missed workout, then more guilt, and so on.

Does this sound a bit too relatable? Check out the tips below that can help you manage the discomfort and get your footing back.

1. Identify distortions in your thought patterns

Internal dialogue has a significant impact on our thoughts, mood, and actions. Evan Lawrence, LMHC, a therapist with Choosing Therapy, explains that emotional distress occurs when we take a fact, such as “I didn’t go to the gym today,” and tell ourselves something about that fact, such as “I’m not a responsible person.”

When you notice this pattern, he recommends remembering the evidence that questions the idea. “For example, if you find yourself saying to yourself ‘I’m not a responsible person,’ you can recall other times or things where you are or were responsible,” he suggests.

2. Remember how important rest is

Even if rest doesn’t feel productive or “healthy,” it is. More than that is necessary. “The truth is, it’s easier to achieve fitness goals when we allow our bodies to rest,” says Kerry Heath, LPC-S, NCC, counselor at Choosing Therapy. She encourages listening to her body. “Exercising when we need to honor our bodies through rest or recovery actually takes us further away from our health goals.” In fact, rest and recovery can improve performance, repair muscle, reduce risk of injury, and more.

Additionally, Heath encourages you to remind yourself that some training is not a make-or-break situation that affects your overall progress toward your long-term goals, and this truth applies to everyone. “Even professional athletes miss workouts due to travel, illness, or vacation,” she says. “It’s a matter of overall consistency versus perfection.”

Trotta points out that cardiovascular endurance only starts to drop after about a week without training, and for strength training, that time frame is more like two to three weeks. “A day or two off has no effect, or could possibly have a positive impact, on your performance,” she says.

3. Remember the reasons behind your decision

Lawrence talks about making an active choice. In other words, “take time to think about your decision, then choose what to do based on the available data,” he explains.

For example, as Barb Puzanovova, a certified personal trainer and non-dieter, aligned with Health at Every Size, discussed in an article for Well+Good on “half wellness,” it’s important to consider other factors of the day that affect how you feel and what you do. What You Need “If… you’re tired, a little hungry, you’ve had mostly coffee and (are) super stressed, then it’s time to do it halfway,” she says. “And if you’re somewhere in the middle, stressed but slept well, then experiment with what’s planned and give yourself permission to backtrack (or) change the game plan.”

However, what does that look like in practice? For one, maybe remind yourself after a sleepless night and busy day that your body needs to rest more and read a book in bed. Or maybe after a stressful day, you’re more in the mood for a yoga class than lifting weights. Or maybe you want the energy boost from an intensive workout. Any of these options are totally valid!

The reasoning behind your choices is what you have to fall back on. “When you feel the cloud of guilt hanging over you, remember why you chose to do this today,” says Lawrence. “You can still remember the reasons you were debating, but I have found that it is much stronger when we make purposeful decisions that we can mentally support.”

4. Allow yourself to move on

One of Trotta’s great tips for clients is to avoid “making up” missed workouts. “The buildup that occurs can be even more depressing than missing a workout or two,” she says. “An incredibly important part of habit formation is enjoying exercise, and we tend not to enjoy things that we feel we’re failing at.” Instead, she encourages clients to “just move on to the next one when the time is right.”

In this sense, aiming for perfection isn’t really helpful, according to Trotta. “Perfectionism procrastinates, waiting for the perfect moment to ‘get it right,’” he says. “Sometimes workouts are constantly skipped because they are too ambitious for your schedule, lifestyle, or energy.” Habits that are genuinely healthy are flexible, she says, promoting consistency over intensity.

TL; DR: Try not to feel bad about going to the couch instead of the gym when that’s what you feel. After all, exercise is only one of many ways we care for our minds and bodies.

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