Overcoming exercise guilt

Last Sunday, Jack and I had a horrifying realisation… We hadn’t had a roast dinner since Christmas. That’s 9 whole months of Yorkshire pud deprivation! Such tragedy! Why we’d denied ourselves the pleasure for so long we didn’t know but we did know that it was time to bust out the brussell sprouts. So we made a roast – with all the trimmings. And something about it being a Sunday and having a cosy roast meant it felt right to have a few glasses of wine too…and whilst the wine’s out, let’s have warm brownies and ice cream because tomorrow’s Monday and Monday’s a fresh start, right?!

It was a marvellous, marvellous Sunday. However, Monday morning, I felt like an actual slug. Beyond sluggish. I snoozed my alarm for 40 minutes and my morning workout didn’t happen. Queue a tremendous amount of guilt for the entire rest of the day – I’d just indulged in this humungous meal and now it was going to sit inside me forevermore because I didn’t burn off my roasties.

Workout guilt is something I deal with often and as much as I try to make peace with missing a planned session, I can’t help feeling like a lazy bum for the day, vowing to “work extra hard tomorrow”. Ideally, I’d love to workout in some form every single morning, whether it be yoga, weights, cardio…But as much as I try, it doesn’t happen. Life gets in the way. I skip my morning workout at least once/twice a week and even though I know my goal of working out every day is unrealistic for me, I beat myself up about not achieving it.

So Monday, feeling utterly full of brownies and stuffing (the clue is in the name!) I did what I do when I feel like shite – search the web for articles to make me feel better. The Real Life RD is one of my favourite blogs to browse when I need some reassurance in the food/weight/body image department and  I often use their search bar to look for articles about my current body-image related predicament. This time, I searched for ‘exercise guilt’.

15 minutes later, I’m having a serious ‘a-ha!!!!’ moment. 

If your worth and value are contingent on whether or not you exercised that day or if you followed your training plan that day….that behavior is no longer healthy. It’s not so much the behavior itself that becomes unhealthy but instead the motivation for the behavior. What is the “why” behind the behavior? What influences that behavior? Read the post here.

Part 1 of ‘a-ha!’ realisation activated…then I saw this:

Before you choose to partake in any race or competition or any sort of workout for that day…ask yourself why you are doing it. Are you doing this out of freedom or are you doing this out of fear? Read here.

See I’ve never really thought about my motive to exercise before. I mean obviously I want to stay in shape, lose weight and to be able to eat more without feeling too guilty. But feeling guilty and obsessing about not working out, suggests that I’m exercising purely out of fear – fear of putting on weight, fear of having to restrict foods because I haven’t burned enough calories, fear of having to wear a bikini when we go away in December…the list goes on. 

I realised I don’t workout because I enjoy it or want to…I feel obligated to. So to rid of the guilt, I obviously have to change my mindset. I need to re-frame the motive to exercise and make it a positive, so that I am choosing to do it out of freedom and not fear of putting on those 3lbs of roast potatoes I ate. 

Now, instead of waking up and thinking ‘I need to burn off last night’s meal’, I’m going to attempt to remind myself of the following:

  • I love seeing improvements in my fitness level – having workouts get easier and weights seem lighter feels amazing!
  • I love feeling strong and noticing my body getting more toned
  • I love seeing my cardio fitness level increase week-by-week on my Fitbit!
  • If there was some kind of accident or disaster, strength could help me to help someone – or myself (imagine climbing out of a tricky place or having to lift something to help someone out)
  • I love how I feel after a workout – let’s go and release some endorphins!!!

This week, since thinking these new thoughts, my getting out of bed to workout is spurred by excitement instead of obligation/dread. And this morning, I just didn’t feel like working out – it’s Sunday and we had friends over. And that’s okay. Do I feel guilty? Not at all.

Like with anything, changing your thought pattern takes time. But already, I’ve noticed a big difference in my attitude thanks to my new positive intentions. Thank you The Real Life RD for such wonderful posts always and for lifting me up countless times. I hope you don’t mind me passing on the wisdom!

Love, Siân x

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