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Coping with Missed Workout Guilt

Posted Jan 20 2013 12:41pm

There’s a smile on my face that I just can’t shake :)

The coolest thing is that it’s a smile that comes from within.  I’m taking charge of my life in a way I’ve never done and with that is coming a lot of new experiences and feelings. I feel confident.  I feel happy.  At times I feel really anxious because I’m confident and happy.  In short, I’m adjusting to a new normal.  A great new normal.

As with all adjustments, there comes some uncomfortable feelings as I navigate these new experiences.  One of those new experiences is learning balance with exercise and fitness, as I have a tendency to become obsessive, or go the other extreme and avoid exercise altogether.

For years, I’ve looked to the blog world, hoping that one of those really fit bloggers who had the body I wanted would talk about the exercise issues I was facing.

Now let me just say that there are things about my body that I want to change and improve, like most women.  However, I will not compromise my health and sanity to achieve any of it.  If that means I’ll never have a flat stomach, well, so be it.  I guess you can say I’m setting boundaries with myself and how far I’ll go to achieve my goals.  You could also say that I’ve set different goals for myself, and that makes a world of difference.

So even though I’m still working my way up the fitness ladder, I wanted to address this issue of missed workout guilt, because I have a feeling I’m not the only one who struggles with this.

In the past, I used to think that making fitness a priority meant that I had to schedule life around my workouts.  Homework and a social life had to come after time put in at the gym, otherwise I’d be distracted and irritable.  I couldn’t shake that nagging feeling that I “should” be working out.

Things are very different now.  I don’t work out because I feel like I have to, I exercise because I want to and because my body feels up to it.

Here are some of my tips for combatting missed workout guilt:

Check Motivation 

When I start to feel guilty for skipping a workout (whatever the reason is), I remind myself of my motivation to get fit.  My primary motivation is not to change my body, but to feel stronger and confident in it.  Reminding myself of that forces me to remember that exercise should not be used as leverage or for punishment, but it should be done for pleasure. My motivation is also NOT to push myself back into any kind of eating disorder symptoms, so it’s quality of the workout rather than quantity that matters most to me.

Remember Other Priorities 

Life is busy and there’s a lot more to life than exercising.  Even though the weather has been beautiful for the past few days, and physically I could have managed a short run every day, my life also has other things in it.  On Thursday, it was my cousin (and godson’s father’s) birthday, so my mom and I took him and his family out to lunch.

I want to be a big part of my godson’s life, as well as his sister’s, and if I have to skip a run to spend a few quality hours with them, then I’ll gladly do it.  Sometimes being too busy is a good thing, because it means you have other things going in your life that are important too.  As long as it doesn’t become a habit to make excuses for regular exercise, I’m fine with it.

Besides, I would have missed out on this precious face:

Lina is such a ham.  She cracks me (and herself) up every time I see her. My godson is also nearing the crawling/scooting stage, but I personally can’t wait until he starts talking!!

Small Changes Add Up 

If you haven’t read the blog the  Healthy Tipping Point , I highly recommend you check it out! Caitlin’s whole philosophy is about “everyday decisions adding up to something amazing.”  The small changes that we make in our daily lives can add up to amazing, bigger lifestyle changes and results.

Some of the small changes that I make to my fitness regime are doing workout videos in my parents’ basement when I don’t feel up to going out for a run.  I’ll also take my dogs on a walk on days when I’m feeling too tired to really push out a full workout.  I also am making smarter dietary choices, which for me is not an eating disorder thing, it just means that I am eating in a way that fuels me better for daily activities, aerobic or not.  Let me be clear that I don’t “compensate” by eating less or lower calorie foods on non-exercise days.  On days when I exercise I end up eating slightly more because I need the fuel, and I don’t hesitate to listen to my body.  If I’m physically hungry, I eat.

Rest Days 

In the past I used to get so excited by the prospect of being fit again that I’d go hard and fast with my workouts and eventually get bored, discouraged, or just run out of energy and motivation.  What has helped me create a sustainable fitness routine this time is remembering that some days my body is going to need some rest, even if it’s 60 degrees fahrenheit outside and there’s no other reason I can’t get out and be active.  For example, yesterday the weather was beautiful once again, but because of some side effects of a medication I’m on, I was utterly exhausted and ended up taking an unintentional 3 hour nap before meeting with some friends for a late lunch.  Some days you feel like a nut, some days you don’t.  REST DAYS ARE OK!! Not to mention NECESSARY! Listen to your body and your body will listen to you.

Negative Self-Talk Not Allowed 

The biggest change I’ve made when it comes to fitness is the way I talk to myself.  In the past, I used to get angry, frustrated, and really mean internally because I felt I was a fitness failure.  I hated all parts of my body and I hated that I wasn’t as fit as some of the other women I went to college with.  I compared and despaired and got caught up in a terrible cycle that left me reeling in depression.

I had to change my relationship with myself in order to stick with a fitness regime.  Now, I’m not Jillian Michael’s by a long shot, I’m just a woman trying to feel good about herself and her body in the mentally and physically healthiest way possible.

Instead of saying to myself, “Why can’t you run that fast/that long, Alex? You’re so fat and such a loser. This has to change.  You’re huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf and it’s disgusting and pathetic,’” or “Why can’t you lift as much as that girl over there? Or why doesn’t your body look like hers? You’re ugly!!” 

I now say things like, “Getting fit takes time, and you already have more endurance now than when you started almost two months ago,” and “YOU ARE capable of running a 5k, or any other race you want if you give yourself the time and patience to train,” and “You’re stronger than you give yourself credit for, mentally and physically.” 

It might sound really cheesy, but oh how it works! When I changed my attitude towards fitness and altered my mindset about what I was capable of, things changed very rapidly!  Suddenly I had the physical and emotional energy and motivation to keep up with my jogging schedule.  I also had the desire to do some cross-training activities like workout DVDs and yoga.  In addition, I’ve realized that I really just want to feel strong, in all senses.  I want to be able to hike this summer. I want to be able to hold my godson in my arms and not feel sore after a few minutes.  I want to be able to run and swim and play pool volleyball.  I want to live and experiences the activities of life!

Most of all, I don’t want to have the focus be on the physical look of my body.  If the byproduct of these activities is the body I want, then that’s great!  But do you want to know something? I think about my body, food, calories, and weight, SO MUCH LESS now that I exercise regularly and moderately.  My body seems to be falling into where it wants to be, and that’s fine with me.  I don’t know how much I weigh and I don’t care to.

Strength, courage, and confidence can’t be measured in pounds or kilos.

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