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.
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 deemed it “unhealthy when it persists without justification, when we blame ourselves even though disinterested observers would find us innocent”.
Recently, fitness instructor and wellness influencer Kelsey Wells told POPSUGAR Australia that the guilt-based attitudes to fitness she sees in her professional work can have serious health implications. She said women, who are conditioned to “beat themselves up” and compare themselves to others, are particularly vulnerable to negative relationships with fitness. She said guilt-driven workouts “are neither productive or healthy,” and that the stress, anxiety and guilt associated with these feelings can have negative, rather than positive impacts on wellbeing.
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.
Wells said, “You will always go further when [your fitness regimen] is anchored in a positive place,” she recommends clients take a mindful approach to fitness – and accept that taking breaks will help them sustain a long-term relationship with health.
After all, skipping a workout for drinks with friends, hitting the snooze button for a much-needed sleep-in, and eating ice cream while watching Succession instead of going to F45, are all part of mentally healthy, balanced lifestyle.
At The Latch, we recommend finding a type of exercise you enjoy. That way, working out will feel fun, rather than like another chore. If you hate running, don’t do it! Try a few different things, whether that’s working out with friends, or switching from pilates to pole dancing, and you’ll eventually find something you love. Plus, if you can believe it, when you do decide to skip a class or trip to the gym, you might even find you miss it. Hey, it could happen!