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Fitness

Skipped a workout? How to not let it derail your progress.

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by megan dahlman
April 5, 2022

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I know you do this. I bet you feel guilty whenever you skip a workout. You probably get really disappointed in yourself and end up sabotaging yourself even more with bad food choices, and the whole downward spiral.

But I’ve got some really important strategies that are going to help you overcome this guilt and keep you moving forward. And yep, these same strategies are going to work for missing the mark with your meals, too.

But first...

I have a client, Jessica, that I’ve trained off and on for years. She’s done my workout programs and has made some serious progress over the years. And we do coaching calls every week, and I check in on her... and a few weeks ago, she sheepishly admitted to me that she missed two of her planned workouts that week. She almost didn’t want to admit it to me, because she felt so guilty.

I think she was afraid that I would be upset with her or disappointed in a way, but honestly, I think she was just disappointed in herself.

And that guilt that she felt all week from those skipped workouts ended up leading to more self-sabotage - she let her nutrition slide (”what’s the point...I’m off the rails anyway...”) and she just let this unnecessary shame sit on top of her that week.

She was paralyzed by the guilt and shame of missing the workout

As her coach, I talked her through the mindset shift needed in those moments of guilt, and she was able to see the full picture, let go of that guilt, feel confident that those moments weren’t going to actually derail her. She’s now making steady progress forward.

Today, I want to teach you how to overcome the guilt that you feel (which can sometimes turn into self-sabotage) when you skip a workout, because life happens and workouts get skipped from time to time, and you need to know how to not let it derail your progress.

I’m going to discuss this within the context of your workouts and your fitness, but this exact same mindset applies to your nutrition as well. And periodically, I’ll bring that up. I’ll make the connection for you for your nutrition and missing the mark on a meal.

Why do people feel guilty when they skip a workout? 3 reasons:

Most people feel guilty when they skip a workout because they believe that that one workout is the linchpin to their overall success.

Each workout is viewed as THE event that will make it or break it

  1. If you have a goal for yourself (perhaps a physique goal of losing 15 pounds, or a non-physique goal of getting in way better shape and decreasing the pain in your body), you probably (or you should) have action steps that will help you get there.
  2. It’s good to see each of those action steps as very important and worth being self-disciplined about
  3. HOWEVER, we can go the opposite direction and see each missed action step as a complete failure and proof of our demise
  4. You might even believe in that moment that you’ll “never reach your goal”.

They think that skipping the workout is equivalent to backsliding, and for an athlete or trainee, there’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re losing ground.

  1. Nobody wants to go backwards, especially if you know you’ve come so far
  2. So missing a workout can really feel like you’re going backwards, and there can be so much guilt wrapped up in that
  3. You might believe that “you’re letting yourself down”

Not only that, but many moms have a track record of letting one skipped workout turn into 2 or 3.

  1. Rediscovering that motivation after you’ve lost your groove can feel like moving a mountain.
  2. So when your history is telling you that one skipped workout might turn into a full month of missed workouts, the panic and guilt can quickly set in.
  3. You might fear that you’re going to let that happen again.

How can you overcome the guilt and get comfortable with not getting your workout in?

Zoom out and evaluate the full picture.

We have a tendency to be so focused on that one day, that one workout. Try to remember the seeing real, tangible progress is the culmination of many actions taken over time. Recognize that one missed workout impacts your mindset far more than your body, muscle tissue and fat mass.

One workout is NOT enough to move the needle (i.e. stepping on the scale right after a workout an exercise in futility). One missed workout is NOT enough to move the needle either

Practically speaking, it’s really helpful to understand the different modes of progress:

  • Progress mode - 3-5 workouts per week (3-4 splurges/week)
  • Maintenance mode - 1-2 workouts per week (5-9 splurges/week)
  • Regress/digress mode - <1 workout per week (10+ splurges/week)

Remember that your physical body needs frequent and intentional rest to operate at its best.

Sometimes a missed workout is EXACTLY what your body needs. When you push it hard day after day after day, you’ll risk

  • Injury
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of motivation
  • Mediocre workouts

One of the best ways to notice the effect that rest has on your body is observe your drive, energy and motivation following a day of rest. For example, most people feel extremely motivated to step up their game on Mondays, largely due to taking a day of rest on Sunday. Acknowledge that surge (it’s not coincidental), and remind yourself that having a missed workout may actually have a positive impact on your training rather than a negative impact.

Allow yourself to be elastic and intuitive with your training, not a perfectionist

Being a perfectionist with anything, where you’re constantly trying to get every little box checked, is going to lead to burnout. Instead, be willing to listen to your body, be intuitive, and go with the flow a little bit more. Ask yourself how it feels to miss a workout... your workout shouldn’t be about a moral obligation. It should be more about wanting to workout because you love the way you feel when you do.

Finally, get right back on track at the next opportunity.

You don’t have to “start over”. All of the hard work of training you’ve already put in still counts. Your body remembers it. Just go right back to where you left off and keep moving forward.

Real Life

I was talking with a client in my Total Nutrition Reset program (and she’s actually doing my Postpartum Renew program, too), and she was describing a workout program that she had done prior to coaching with me. It was INTENSE. You had to show up and do two 45 minute long sessions each day for 75 days. The PRESSURE was high, and the feelings of guilt were strong if you missed a day. And she told me that after she finished (she did it all...even with 3 tiny ones at home), she was so guilty for eating a cookie and for not doing a workout for a couple days.

But honestly, she was burnt out. That scenario describes so many moms I talk with, and it breaks my heart.

BIG TAKEAWAYS

What I want you to know is that one workout is NOT the linchpin to your success, missing it is not going to cause you to backslide, and you DON’T have to let it turn into 2, 3 or 10 missed workouts. If you happen to skip a workout, give yourself grace! Allow yourself to be imperfect...in fact, anticipate that... and keep moving forward.

Your actions steps now are:

  • Get rid of your perfectionism
  • Skip a workout
  • Learn to be ok with it

You got this!

Trainer, nutrition coach, and Christian mom — in a culture that’s obsessed with “gym-selfies” and a number on the scale, I’m passionate about helping moms discover what it feels like to actually love their bodies and thrive in them.
Read More About Megan
Hi! I’m Megan.
Self-Care Simplified is for Christian moms that want to be equipped and encouraged to take simple steps towards the healthy life you want for yourself and the people you love.
Be sure to subscribe to Self-Care Simplified wherever you listen to your favorite podcast.
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Hi! I’m Megan.
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Self-Care Simplified is for Christian moms that want to be equipped and encouraged to take simple steps towards the healthy life you want for yourself and the people you love.
Be sure to subscribe to Self-Care Simplified wherever you listen to your favorite podcast.
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