3 Ways to Cope With Exercise Guilt

Do you have exercise guilt?

The feeling of guilt you have when you want to workout, but you feel bad taking the time for yourself. There are others who need you and need time with you. There are obligations you have that you should be focused on. There is the house cleaning, the laundry, cooking dinner, prepping for the family activities tomorrow. Simply having time to spend with your children and your spouse. You want to workout. But what takes priority? Do you feel that heavy sense of guilt ever? It’s hard.

It's hard to take time for yourself and not feel bad about it. You’re not alone. I feel it too. It’s often a struggle. I use a childcare area at my gym and my boys enjoy it. They play toys together and get along fine. I still have a sense of guilt every time I take them though. Some weeks are busy running around between errands, short travel trips to see family and other things going on. I can sense when they need down time to simply play at home. Maybe I give into that too much, maybe that’s my personal excuse, but I feel guilty taking them.

I remember when my youngest was working through separation anxiety. The second we would walk into the childcare space at the gym, he would clutch my neck tighter and cry. I would have to pry him off of me to hand him to one of the workers. She was able to hold him but he cried and hyperventilated the entire time. It was heart-breaking. I would typically keep my workout to 15 minutes because I felt guilty. I didn’t want him crying, but I did want a few minutes for myself. After a few months of my 15 minute workout sessions, he improved and eventually he was willing to play. It pulled at my heart strings for sure. The guilt was always there but we had learned to cope.

We all know we should take time for ourselves. We hear it over and over, actually making it happen though can be a challenge.

Here are 3 ways I have found to get over exercise guilt:

Schedule it. Schedule your exercise into your week as an appointment. Don't change it unless something comes up such as an illness or major conflict.

Workout at home some days. Plan at few workouts at home each week. If you have small children, kids can still play near you and let’s be honest, they’ll climb on you to make your planks and pushups that much harder. If you have older children and want to run, have them hop on their bikes and do a short out and back. That is part of my summer plan. You might be surprised how well it works out.

Go to the gym on the weekend. Fitting in one workout during the weekend makes me feel ahead of the game for the week. I start my new workout week on Fridays. It’s a game to see how much of it I can fit in before the week starts and my schedule picks up. For those with children, let the time you’re gone be 1:1 time with your spouse. Or, as we sometimes do, utilize childcare areas at the gym and actually workout with your spouse on the weekend. We look at it as a fun little mini-date. Going to the gym was our normal routine on Saturday mornings before we had kids, it’s nice to fit a little gym time in together once in awhile.

Give these 3 things a try and see if it helps with not feeling exercise guilt. You’re not alone. It’s a continual struggle for so many of us. These types of struggles are a part of living an active lifestyle, the emotional barriers and journey that goes along with it.

To have a workout pre-planned that gets harder as you go without taking up more time, check out The Start Line. I created this program for those who want to be more active, stronger, and have a plan. Knowing you need 20 minutes to get through it and do not have to think about what you are going to do...makes it so much easier to simply get it done.

I encourage you to learn more about The Start Line.

Just know you've got this. You're not alone. Take it a day and workout at a time and remind yourself how great you feel after a workout. Reach out and ask if you need anything.

Dr. Shari, PT