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Dealing with Exercise Guilt + Weekly Workouts

A few weeks ago I received a question from a reader about exercise guilt.

“Do you ever feel exercise guilt when you are unable to exercise for a few days? I ran my first 1/2 marathon 2 weeks ago and I have not been as active as I was prior to my race. Any advice, tips, personal suggestions would be so appreciated!!!”

I thought this was such a great topic to devote discussion towards.

So one of my workout (and life) philosophies is to try to move my body every day. I don’t assign a “right or wrong” to how I decide to move my body…I just move.


Sometimes I move by running.


Sometimes I move by practicing yoga.


Sometimes I move by strength training.


Sometimes I move by CrossFitting.


And sometimes just a walk with my girls will do just fine.

Here’s the thing I tell my yoga students all the time. Your body is so different every day. It’s a gift to be in-tune with that and it’s a skill to learn to listen to it. This is why I don’t plan out my week of workouts. I wait and see what my schedule allows and how my body is feeling.

Of course, that changes if I’m actively training for something like last year’s half marathon. I did adhere to a training program with scheduled workouts but these days that’s the exception not the rule. There was a time that I felt that I always needed to be pushing, training, working towards something…now I just love to move. I’m find myself more energetic, less injured and overall more happy with my body and my training when it comes from an intuitive place.

So with that, here are this week’s workouts which are heavy on the yoga…because after a long weekend in NYC and how my body was feeling overall…it was all I felt like doing.




Hot Yoga


Hot Yoga


Hot Yoga


Circuit Training

I went to a circuit training at Madabolic class with a friend. Our workout was 30 minutes of intervals of boxing, skier machine, jump squats, Russian twists and single arm snatches.




7 mile run + teach Total Strength

I met a friend to run thought we’d do 4-5 but every time we had the option to turn to head back we decided to keep going. It was one of those runs that surprises you! I credit all the rest and yoga I got all week to a great run. I taught Total Strength later in the day at the Y and it was a nice overall strength workout.

I would love to hear your take on exercise guilt. Is it something you struggle with or have in the past? How have you learned to deal? 

{ 34 comments… add one }
  • Rajul August 9, 2015, 11:17 pm

    B/c exercising for something that I used to not enjoy doing, I need to have it, I think I put a lot of pressure on myself to sustain it. Sometimes I forget how much I love it naturally now & that I can “relax”. I realized a walk with the family or yard work or just time for even something else is ok. Stress management and sleep are just as important right 🙂

    • Jen August 10, 2015, 4:53 pm

      Exactly! I think it does more harm than good to pressure yourself to get that one workout in when your body or schedule really won’t allow it.

  • Rajul August 9, 2015, 11:21 pm

    B/c I used to dread exercise, I have put pressure on myself to sustain the habit. But now I love it & realize 1 workout isn’t going to make or break my physique. I value rest days, family walks, and yard work- like you said, just moving!

  • Rachel August 10, 2015, 12:31 am

    After getting into a workout-less rut, I don’t have extreme guilt but rather lack of motivation to get moving again. It requires a lot of mental toughness and almost like a mental numbness; I can’t think about working out after not working out for awhile. I just have to get dressed, lace up my shoes, and start. Constantly trying to get better at that!

    • Jen August 10, 2015, 4:58 pm

      My best advice for that is to change things up! Whatever you normally do, try something different. Go to a class you’ve never tried or run a trail where you’ve never been. Following other fitness instructors and bloggers on social media is also great inspiration.

  • Janelle @WhollyHealthy August 10, 2015, 4:31 am

    I don’t really feel guilty when I don’t exercise, but I feel like it has become such a routine in my life that I feel like something is missing on my rest days. I would say I’m like you and just try to move everyday (unless I’m sick or something). My rest day usually involves an extra long walk with the pup. I’ve also been dealing with hypothyroidism so I have a lot of fatigue and joint pain somedays, so I really just try to be flexible. The way I see it, is anything is progress.

  • Tara | Treble in the Kitchen August 10, 2015, 6:49 am

    Love this outlook, Jen! 🙂

    • Jen August 10, 2015, 5:06 pm

      Thank you!

  • Erica August 10, 2015, 7:29 am

    I love your exercise philosophy! Mine is similar. I wake up and let my body/the day decide how I’ll workout. Maybe it’s a hike, maybe it’s a short strength training session at home, or maybe it’s nothing. Fortunately, after a few years of regular exercising, I’ve tuned into myself enough to know what I need and I don’t feel guilty if it means I need rest multiple days in a row!

  • David August 10, 2015, 9:08 am

    I think the most important thing (probably moreso when your career isn’t active-oriented) is to plan the time you are going to do it.

    There’s lots of science out there on habit formation that suggests if you are going to eat healthily and/or create an exercise regimen, you need to block out the hours like an appointment for grocery shopping, cooking, workout time and laundry.

    For me (working an office 8-5) – the prep time to ensure I have the food and gear I need to workout at lunch needs to be thought of in advance, and when that gear varies from cycling kits, to weight training apparel, it requires a bit of a schedule. With three cycling kits, I can’t really go to an indoor cycling class four days a week, so my plan usually consists of “two cycling days, two run days, two weight training days” and on Sundays I do all the prep work to ensure whatever I choose the night before for the next day, the gear and food I need is ready.

    • Jen August 10, 2015, 5:12 pm

      I think that’s important when you have a schedule like yours! I’m fortunate to be at the studio or gym often enough that if time and my body will allow, I can take a class or do a workout while I’m there.

  • Brynn August 10, 2015, 9:47 am

    I used to deal with exercise guilt, but since I became a mom I have a new understanding of my body. Moving for health and enjoyment drives me to be active every day, not the scale or for vanity reasons.

    • Jen August 10, 2015, 5:16 pm

      I love to hear that! It’s certainly not something everyone can say and it takes a real appreciation of your body to do so.

  • Cassie Tran August 10, 2015, 10:25 am

    I feel guilty when I do workout, but I don’t feel as if I had a good one! Loved this article 🙂 super refreshing!

    • Jen August 10, 2015, 5:28 pm

      I try to think on those days that my body just needed an easier workout and it’s okay that I didn’t crush it or leave drenched in sweat. If it didn’t go as well as I had hoped, my body was probably tired or not prepared to do what I was asking of it. And one bad workout won’t affect you in the long run at all!

  • She Rocks Fitness August 10, 2015, 11:14 am

    I definitely have experienced exercise guilt, but to me now it is just like you. I try to move my body daily. I listen to what feels best and what will make me happy…yoga; running; strength training; or walking the dog. It varies week to week, but I know that I feel happiest and healthiest when I do something daily.

    • Jen August 10, 2015, 5:20 pm

      I feel the same about moving daily. It’s taken time to realize that if that movement is just a quick walk with Zoey and Sullie, it can be exactly what my body needed that day.

  • Ashley @ A Lady Goes West August 10, 2015, 11:31 am

    Hi Jen! I try not to get too worried about missing workouts, but what I do tend to think about is making sure my week of workouts is balanced between cardio/strength and other variety. Being that I work in fitness, it’s not always easy to get the workouts I need done. But I try! Thanks for sharing your outlook. I love the idea of knowing that your body needs different things each day and you should read the signs. 🙂 Happy Monday!

    • Jen August 10, 2015, 5:23 pm

      I realized that the most when I quit running every day and started mixing in other kinds of workouts. My body feels so much healthier and stronger!

  • Rachel August 10, 2015, 1:16 pm

    This is my exact fitness philosophy as well Jen! I have learned over the last few years that my body can really only handle 1-2 super high-intensity sessions a week (maybe 3 if I’m feeling really good), and so it’s really important for me to listen to body and just move each and every day even if it’s more moderate or lower intensity. I try and spread this message to all of my group fitness class participants and friends…there is no guilt needed around exercise or food when you listen to your body!

    • Jen August 10, 2015, 5:30 pm

      I love it!

  • Jessica August 10, 2015, 1:32 pm

    Thank you for posting this.. what a great topic of discussion! I sometimes suffer from “gym-guilt” more frequently than I should. Typically I lift, alternating muscle groups, in the morning before my 8-5 desk job. If I miss one morning of my “5 day training rotation” I feel off. If my body tells me to sleep-in and I listen.. I feel guilty all day and I shouldn’t. Like you, I also, run, walk, yoga and lift. I have to remind myself that I’m on my own fitness journey and I’m learning more and more everyday that balance is just as important with exercise as it with nutrition. Thanks again for posting! Very helpful.

    • Jen August 10, 2015, 5:32 pm

      It’s hard not to feel guilty when you break your routine like that, but it’s so much more important to do what your body needs than to push through something it doesn’t!

  • kristin | W [H] A T C H August 10, 2015, 2:29 pm

    such great advice! i have a similar approach — i just try to break a sweat every day. could be a walk or a ride on my bike on the boardwalk — just something to be active.

  • Julie @ momRD.com August 10, 2015, 2:59 pm

    Great topic to discuss because I think it’s something we all deal with, especially if you’re training for something with a specific goal like you mentioned with your training for the half. I’ve trained for many races with very specific training plans (some of which I paid I coach to personalize for my goals). So I felt like it was a big deal if I missed a run. But that’s not the right state of mind. I once had a training friend say think of your training plan as being written in pencil. You can move or even erase certain workouts and it’s not the end of the world. And that was true. I completed these programs (with missing a bunch of runs) and still achieved my goals.

  • Lorinda August 10, 2015, 3:39 pm

    I am struggling with finding the right ‘fit’ for me that can compliment/accompany my yoga practice. I am not a lazy person, but am finding it hard to get motivated and find something that I truly love. Running kills one of my knees, so I need to find that balance of cardio and strength, along with my yoga. Thoughts? Suggestions? Thanks Jen!

    • Jen August 11, 2015, 4:51 pm

      Cycling and swimming are great alternatives to running. I find the energy of a group in classes really motivating! You could try something like BodyPump, crossfit, or circuit training for strength.

  • Emily @ My Healthyish Life August 10, 2015, 8:40 pm

    I find your approach to exercise so refreshing. Even when I’m training for a race (like now) I still don’t feel too guilty about missing a workout. I can’t and don’t want to run every day and I feel my best when I mix in lower-intensity days.

  • Darcy August 11, 2015, 11:00 am

    LOVE your philosophy! I have a lot of trouble fitting movement into my days, but I’ve been trying to make it a priority lately. I’m an editor by day (which mean sitting down reading all the time), and then I teach yoga in my free time…which doesn’t leave a lot of time for my own practice or other workouts. But I know I’ll find that balance eventually, and this post was a great reminder to keep working on it! Thanks!

  • Tara August 11, 2015, 1:04 pm

    interesting topic. i also try to move everyday but do suffer from some guilt of maybe not pushing myself hard enough or after the fact realizing i pushed to hard. I have LOTS more guilt with food. i do not think i am good at listening to my body. Often after the fact i realize oh hey maybe i should have rested or maybe 3 days of activity X in a row was to much. But i cant seem to figure that out when its happening or before. But i fall into the camp of someone who has to plan workouts in advance. Im training for a half marathon so you gotta plan those long runs and also i work 50+ hours per week so like another poster i need to have the right clothes/shoes with me for the right workout. Plus the classes i like are on certain days or i have a late meeting one night so i have to go in the early AM on certain days or things like that. if i didnt plan i wouldnt do as much….but yet…i do relate to what you are saying. it would be nice to totally do whatever i felt like on that particular day. sometimes i do have a treadmill run planned and i go for the eliptical instead for something more low impact. thanks for the topic ! would love to hear more on how you figured out how to listen to your body. mine must whisper. i need it to speak up : )

    • Jen August 11, 2015, 5:23 pm

      Listening to your body is definitely a practice that has to be cultivated. I really learned how to listen to my body when I started consistently practicing yoga. Yoga forces you to start to notice sensations that you previously ignored or were unaware of. My best advice for you is to make a conscious effort to notice the slight differences in your body each time day you go on a run. Notice how what you do and what you eat make your body feel different from day to day. It starts with making an effort to notice how you’re feeling on a deeper level than you’re used to and before you know it, you’ll be more in tune with your body than ever.

  • Kerry Ann August 11, 2015, 2:55 pm

    Hi Jen!

    This comment comes late – but I had to catch up! I see you tried Madabolic in Charlotte. How did you like it? Would you substitute it for Crossfit or do you prefer Crossfit. I’ve heard mixed reviews. Someone I talked to didn’t think that it wasn’t as challenging as they would have hoped! Just wanted to see what you opinion was!


    • Jen August 12, 2015, 3:07 pm

      I really liked it, but I don’t necessarily think of it as a substitute for crossfit. You’ll see some similar movements but they are not meant to be the same. Madabolic is generally not as taxing on your body. As for the difficulty, some days are harder than others as they are in Crossfit. It also depends on how hard you push yourself. I know people who like the fact that Madabolic will work them hard and make them sore but not the hurt for three or four days kind of sore that you sometimes get with Crossfit. Hope this helps!

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