How to Feel Less Guilty When You Skip the Gym

Jessica Thiefels is the author of 10 Questions That Answer Life’s Biggest Questions and host of Mindset Reset Radio, a personal development podcast. She’s been writing for more than 10 years and has more than 800+ published articles worldwide. She’s written for AARP, Reader’s Digest, and Lifehack, and regularly contributes to FastCompany, Glassdoor, and more.   Additional Resource...

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UPDATED: Aug 31, 2020

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Get the Basics...
  • Missing a single workout isn’t a total loss. Don’t stop working out because of one missed day; get back on track and work out the next day.
  • Making moving a priority. Find ways to walk, stretch, and move throughout your day.
  • Listen to your body. Sometimes taking a rest day is exactly what your body needs.

Skipping the gym sucks, whether it’s due to a scheduling conflict or simply deciding, “I’m not working out today.” Worse yet, it’s hard not to feel guilty when that happens. You put a lot of effort into training and keeping your body strong and that one missed session nags at you.

As a personal trainer, I know the feeling all too well. I also know that missing a single workout isn’t a total loss. There are many ways you can make up for your missed session or be okay with skipping while staying focused on keeping your body healthy and happy.

For great workouts that keep the body happy and healthy, sign up for an Exercise.com PRO plan for access to tailored workout plans, certified personal trainers, and more.

Move More During the Workday

Often times while I’m waiting for the photocopier or the microwave, I’ll do some small exercises, like calf-raises, squats, or lunges, says Cristina Dulin, Fit2Run.

Dulin shared a few exercises you can do in the office without being conspicuous, and here are a few more ideas to keep in mind throughout the day:

  • Lunges down an empty hallway
  • Wall pushups in the bathroom stall
  • Squats in an empty bathroom
  • Calf raises while waiting for coffee
  • Quad squeezes (three seconds) and releases
  • Walking the stairs when you need a break
  • Box (stair) jumps

Boost the Intensity on Your Next Workout

Give yourself a little kick in the butt for skipping your workout by planning to boost the intensity on your next one. You’ll crush more calories and feel amazing when you’re done. Luckily, it’s easy to boost the intensity of any workout using a number of tactics.

My favorite is timed intervals (i.e., 30 seconds of work, 20 seconds of rest) to keep your heart rate up or boost it during specific parts of your workout.

For example, you can do interval sprinting on the treadmill, or add an interval plyometrics circuit at the end of your regular strength workout. Try this one:

30 seconds on, 20 seconds off — repeat three to five times:

  • Squat jumps
  • Pushups
  • Burpees
  • Plank jacks
  • Jumping lunges

You can also add supersets to your strength training. This means performing two exercises, back-to-back (no rest in between). The goal is to push your muscles to work a little harder, for a little longer, boosting the burn and fatigue.

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Eat Healthy Foods All Day — No Exceptions

I don’t like the idea of having “good” and “bad” foods because it makes it seem like a punishment for eating something that may be considered “bad.” What I mean when I say “eat healthily — no exceptions” is to focus on whole foods that you know are good for your body. This means lean proteins, veggies, fruits, and whole grains.

You don’t have to eat a salad for lunch and dinner, or even forego dessert if you have a sweet tooth. Focus on choosing foods that are good for your body, feel good while you’re eating them, and make you feel good after. If you love chicken and rice, have that with a side of veggies. If you love sandwiches, get the veggie supreme with whole grain bread.

Working out isn’t the only way to take care of your body, so showing it some love by eating good-for-you foods is a great option.

Give Yourself Grace

[M]any days I do manage to get up and get my workout in the wee small hours of the morning—leaving my house around 4:45 to head to the gym or out for a run. But on the days that I don’t, I feel guilty and spend the day beating myself up. Why am I so weak? I should have gotten out of bed. I should have my workout done. Now, when am I going to find the time to work it in? – Study participant of Pirkko Markula, Ph.D.

We know the feeling all too well, and when you start talking like that, it’s time to “give yourself grace.” This is a phrase my best friend and I use when we’re beating ourselves up over something and know that we shouldn’t. You give your all at work, make time for friends, take care of your mind and keep your body active, and at some point, one thing or another is going to slip. And that’s okay.

If you skip because you’re tired and stressed from a long day, perhaps your body is telling you it needs rest—part of health is listening to your body and giving it what it needs. In this case, the gym may not have been the best option anyway.

The same goes for skipping to spend time with friends or get more work done — priorities and needs change from day-to-day, and allowing for that flexibility can help reduce the guilt that comes with missing the gym. Next time you’re beating yourself up for skipping the gym, find a little grace and remember it’s okay.

Feeling less guilty about skipping the gym takes a mix of mental and physical training. If you want to work a little harder next time, take time on the day you skip to plan a high-intensity workout. If you know you need a little love, remember to give yourself grace. In the end, one missed workout won’t undo all your hard work, so don’t let yourself get too upset about it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need to go to the gym to lose weight?

No! Proper nutrition is a great first step towards losing weight. Movement of any kind is also beneficial. If you can’t afford a gym membership or do not have time to go to the gym, try some bodyweight exercises at home, go for walk or run, or get some movement in at your local park!

What is NEAT?

NEAT is an acronym and stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis. It refers to the energy used to do everything outside of eating, sleeping, and purposeful exercise. By increasing your neat (taking the stairs, fidgeting, doing the dishes, etc., you can burn more calories throughout the day

How do you get the motivation to exercise?

There are many ways to find the motivation to exercise. Here is a great article for more information on the topic.

When you’re ready to get back into the gym, sign up for an Exercise.com PRO plan for a wide range of workouts, training logs, and more.

See for yourself – Meet with the Exercise.com Team today.