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Dealing with Exercise Guilt

After taking about a week off from a tough workout, I have to admit I’m struggling mentally to get back into my normal routine.

Usually, I run at least three miles and if my schedule allows, I’ll throw in some strength training. Once I started training for my half-marathon, I scheduled running into my life for six days a week. After my race, I reduced the mileage, but made sure I was still running the same number of days per week.

Then the graduation celebrations began.


As I said before, I took about a week off from working out. I did some running here and there, but I didn’t throw my full effort into the workouts. Now I’m back home and trying to get back into my fitness routine, but have realized I’m struggling a bit.

Mentally, I’m a bit of a basket case because I just graduated and I’m transitioning into a new phase of my life. I’m not upset that I’m done with school (I honestly need a break), but I’m upset about not seeing all of my friends from college anymore. I can’t call them and meet up later that day, or stop by their house on the way home. Normally, this wouldn’t bother me because hey, it’s only summer vacation! but that’s no longer the case. It’s time to be an adult and well, that’s a little scary. Any recent graduate who tells you otherwise is lying. We’re all a little scared, no matter how secure our future is.

I bring that up because I think it has a direct connection to my workouts. My mind is constantly all over the place, so I’m not able to focus on my workout. When I’m upset, I don’t run well and that’s proven true the last two days. Yesterday, I left my house intending to run four miles. I only ran two because I simply couldn’t get into it. My body was struggling and I felt defeated.

My defeated face. Emily's loveable face.

I shook it off and did 10 minutes of strength training, then hoped for the best the next day. Today, I hit the pavement once more and completed 2.5 miles. Again, I struggled. Things were a little better, but not great.

Now to the point of this post: The whole time I was running, I felt guilty for doing so poorly. I kept willing my legs to run faster and feel stronger, but the more I moved, the heavier they felt. Which made me feel more upset. When I pushed harder, I became angry because it felt like my body was barely moving.

Now, I’m a healthy person and I thrive on working out because it makes me feel good. I don’t force myself into a workout, so this feeling of guilt being associated with exercise is new to me and unsettling. The more I thought about it, the more I realized two things:

  1. Guilt gets you nowhere. Did it push me to run faster? No. Did it make me want to exercise more? No. So what’s the point? I should have felt proud right away that I went out and ran, no matter how well I did.
  2. Positive reinforcement is more useful. Like I said, I workout because it makes me feel good, not because I’m being forced into it. Exercise is fun; it is not a form of punishment. Talking positively would have made my run so much more effective — it’s even been proven that positivity makes it less likely for you to repeat self-destructive behavior.

Pandora must have been connected to my subconscious too because right when I really needed it, Bruno Mars switched on and reminded me to feel good about myself.

Thanks, Bruno.

Right after Bruno finished serenading me, Lady Gaga came on with “Born this Way.” Talk about two perfect songs to boost my mood. I really listened to the lyrics of each song and let go of the guilt that was coursing through me. By the end of the second number, I felt pumped again and my body was craving a good workout.

Bob Harper was more than willing to kick my booty.

Bob, I love you.

If you haven’t tried any of Bob Harper’s DVDs with the Inside Out Method, do it! I’ll put up a full review of three of them soon. This DVD is split into two workouts, so you can do either a 30- or 60-minute workout. I opted for the 30 and by the end my muscles were bowing down to Bob’s awesomeness.

My mood took a complete 180 within one workout simply because I changed my mentality. By the end, I was even happy enough to take a picture of myself so you could see my cute top.

Simple and cute.

My sports bra matches, so you can’t really see the adorable v-cut neckline. The top is from Reebok, it’s comfy and it doesn’t ride up at all when running, so I recommend it. Oh, and excuse the blurriness of the cell phone photo, but I deal with what I have.

Overall, I’m proud of myself for realizing what was holding me back from really progressing in my workouts. Has this ever happened to you before? Have you ever experienced exercise guilt? If so, how did you deal with it?