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How to Overcome Exercise Guilt When You Skip a Workout

Feeling guilty for skipping a workout? It’s a common feeling. While there’s no reason to feel guilty for taking time to rest, the fitness industry doesn’t make it easy for you with most gyms promoting a “no pain, no gain” attitude that makes people believe there are no excuses for not exercising.

Missing a workout doesn’t make you bad or lazy but it can often feel this way. When life gets busy and you miss a number of workouts in a row, this guilt can spiral and turn into a vicious cycle.

Instead of viewing working out as a chore that must be completed daily, try approaching exercise “from a place of self-love or you’ll find yourself reaching your goals and realising nothing really changed,” Dr. Megan Roche, MD, told Bustle.

A survey conducted by Strava, a social networking app created for runners and cyclists, earlier this year found that over a quarter of women under the age of 35 in the US list guilt as a factor that impacts their exercise habits.

In fact, while guilt might motivate some people to exercise, for many women, in particular, it can be described as a “destroyer of emotional energy,” said psychotherapist Maud Purcell, which “leaves you feeling immobilised in the present by something that has already occurred”.

When it comes to feeling guilty for not exercising, philosopher and educational advocate Nel Noddings deems it “unhealthy when it persists without justification, when we blame ourselves even though disinterested observers would find us innocent”.

We doubt you’d admonish a loved one for skipping a workout so why do we do this to ourselves? We have to flip the story on guilt related to exercise because it’s healthy to give both your body and your brain a break in order to avoid burnout. While changing this script in your mind might be hard, it’s worth it.

“The first step is to avoid feeling guilty about feeling guilty,” Roche told Bustle. “It’s key to accept the emotions you feel as valid, turning toward them with love.”

Be gentle with yourself and don’t approach exercise from a place of guilt or hate. If you’re not feeling it, accept that you won’t be going to the gym that day and try to push it out of your mind. You could also consider doing something enjoyable with the time you would have been at the gym in order to shift your energy onto something else.

Finding a type of exercise you enjoy is also super helpful in making it feel fun rather than a chore. If you hate running, don’t do it! Try a few different things and you’ll eventually find something you love. And, if you can believe it, when you do decide to skip a class or going to the gym, you might even find you miss it. Hey, it could happen!

“Don’t work out because you need to fundamentally change something about yourself,” Roche said. “Because you don’t. You’re amazing just the way you are.”

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