How to Handle Exercise Guilt

Three Ingredients = Fantastic Lunch

Noodle Bowl

  1. Carba Nada egg fettuccine pasta
  2. Ragú marinara meat sauce (My favorite since I was a little girl… Did you know it’s all natural??)
  3. Steamed broccoli


As you can see, my favorite noodle bowl has returned in full force.

Pre-Lunch Yoga

Since I awoke at 5:30 this morning and skipped my usual workout, I arrived to work very early. This allowed me to check a bunch of things off my to-do list before lunch, and still have time to skirt out of the office for a quick lunchtime yoga class at my gym.

I knew the instructor teaching today’s class typically teaches beginner and light yoga classes, so I figured attending her class would give me the stretching my body has been craving without putting me through an intense workout.

Since I left the gym because my body felt too tired this morning, I didn’t want to put my body through anything too strenuous today. I want to rock my 8-mile run tomorrow and a day off from strength training and cardio is just what the doctor ordered!

I high-tailed it to the gym and did a quick-change in the dressing room.


Today’s yoga class was perfect.

Usually I like a more challenging yoga class that makes me sweat, but today’s class was light, easy and sweat-free. The instructor lead us through simple poses that gave my body a much-needed stretch.

I felt ten times better afterward!

How to Handle Exercise Guilt

As it turns out, I’m not the only one who struggles with exercise guilt. It sounds like a lot of you guys also grapple with this emotion and have the desire to overcome it. Our bodies need rest and we should enjoy days away from the gym without feeling like we are slacking off.

After reading through your comments (Seriously, I love you guys), I’ve complied a little list of tips on how to handle the emotions associated with exercise guilt (or basically how to justify why we shouldn’t feel guilty in the first place):

  • Taking a day off often makes your next workout a stronger and more powerful one.
  • Rest days give our muscles time to recover and help prevent injury.
  • Our life should be our priority. Sometimes family members, friends or our job require our time and attention more than the gym.
  • If you struggle with doing no activity at all, do something light such as going for a long walk with your dog, thoroughly cleaning your apartment or taking an easy yoga class.
  • Your body knows when it’s had too much. Listen to it. If the thought of running for five minutes or doing one set of bicep curls exhausts you, that may be your body telling you it’s time for a break.
  • If weight gain is your concern, understand that 3,500 calories equal one pound. Your workout likely burns nowhere near that amount, so taking a day off from the gym doesn’t equate instant weight gain.

So tell me… How many days are you taking OFF from the gym this week?

45 Responses

  1. I feel guilty sometimes if I skip the gym. This week I’m taking Sat/Sun off from the gym and hope to get a walk in on the beach tomorrow. But Mon-Fri I feel like I HAVE to make it to the gym. Sometimes I wish I can shake the guilt, but other times I thank the Lord I’m that dedicated to being healthy, fit and strong. But in the end, you should always listen to your body.

  2. I took today off! My 21st bday was last night so it wasn’t the best morning 😉 I did walk about 4 miles today though.

    • woooohooooo!!! 21! i don’t think i left the couch the day after my 21st, so walking 4 mi. is definitely a victory!!

    • I took the day off because of your 21st birthday as well! That and a job interview.

  3. First off, you have the cutest outfits! Secondly, great posts today. I feel guilty when I can’t get in a hard-core workout (like today), but I’ll take the pooch for a walk and that’s good. It’s hard to relax and tell yourself “it’s ok,life will go on.” 🙂

  4. I am horrible at taking days off! The best way for me to take a day off is let life get in the way. SO when I visit friends I like to lay low or just go for a walk

  5. I am taking off this weekend due to being too busy. I do feel guilty about not going but I would feel worse not enjoying my life!!

  6. I struggled so much with taking days off since I had a terrible exercise addiction. an hour run used to be considered a day off. I was basically on bed rest when I was diagnosed with osteoperosis at age 20! being without ANY movement for a while made me cherish a mild walk or even going upstairs in my apartment. Your body is your vehicle, it can run forever, Sometimes, you just need to park it. I find relaxing on the beach to help the most.

  7. I will be taking tomorrow off, and enjoying my day out on the lake boating! Can’t WAIT! 8)
    By the way – love your outfit today! I can’t tell…is that belt attached to the cardigan or separate?

  8. I used to feel a lot of day-off guilt but now I work them into my plan for the week. I know that I can really work hard one day because the next day is a rest day. It gives my body a chance to rest and recover so I can be stronger for the next work out.

  9. Exercise guilt is the worst! I hate when it happens to me, especially because I have a desk job. Of course, it’s just our bodies telling us to rest. I think that you will find training for your half-marathon a good way to fit in structured “rest days”. I actually ended up doing two rest days a week quite often when I trained for my marathon, and stopped doing weights a few weeks before the race. All of that training is hard on your body and rest days are super important. Here’s a great article on running and rest days:,7120,s6-241-285–8256-0,00.html (My boyfriend is a huge runner and Physical Therapist and he does the pulse check in the morning.)

  10. I felt yucky the majority of the week so I bailed on Zumba 3 times! I did manage to make it last night which made me happy. Sometimes I can’t tell if I’m lazy or if I really need a break!

  11. I took Tuesday off because I worked late, so that means I’m going to work out on Saturday. I tend to exercise M-F, and take the weekend off. But I ALWAYS feel gross come Sunday night. It’s not that I eat terribly on the weekend, I think guilty —-> gross. Your tips are helping change my attitude though! =)

  12. i always take one full day off….and then one day is an active rest…now a days its my insanity recovery disk which is perfect! i still sweat and have a great workout, but it is much less strenous on my bod!

  13. I love your work outfit!
    I didn’t feel well all week so I have taken 3 rest days off. Next week I’m going to gear up and start training for a half marathon! 🙂

  14. I’ve definitely done many a lunch-break yoga class (I work at a university, so it’s really convenient to utilize their gym and classes). And today happens to be one of my “rest” days…I KNOW I’ve earned it, so I’m just sitting back (literally) and enjoying 🙂 Rest is most important to me than actually working out!

  15. As per my try-a-tri training 2 days off a week. However with life and family this week, 4 days off. The fun thing is that tomrrow I have a 5k race for fun at the Toronto Airport.

  16. […] guilt if you skip a planned workout. Julie offers up some tips for avoiding those feelings in How to Handle Exercise Guilt @ Peanut Butter […]

  17. Hey Julie! Random question here!—I was just wondering what your views are on obesity? I noticed that this issue has never been addressed on your blog.


  18. I always take Sunday off every single week…no questions asked! It is MY day to recover!

  19. don’t feel to bad. you will be running A LOT tomorrow and since you listened to your body today and took it easy you will prob. do much better in your run tomorrow. and you workout everyday and eat extremely healty so its okay!! honestly, im actually kind of glad to see that you didnt exercise and listened to the way u were feeling. and u did yoga and walked this morning seems pretty good and still active to me!

  20. I usually take one day completely off or with just yoga and no weights or cardio. Usually by Friday I am starting to really hear it from my legs, so one day of the weekend is naturally a take-it easy day.

  21. I always take 1-2 days of per week and don’t feel guilty about that! 🙂

    I’ll be off Sat. and Sun this weekend

  22. I know I definitely struggle with exercise guilt but honestly when you are training for a race you HAVE to take rest days! 2 years ago I would have beaten myself up if I didn’t go to the gym at least 6 days a week… I’m training for my 2nd full marathon and I’ve learned a lot since then. I think running takes the most out of your body, more so than any other exercise so rest up girl you deserve it! I’m sure it will pay off for your long run this weekend 🙂

  23. I try to take one day off each week…It’s usually Saturday or Sunday, but if something comes up mid-week, I’ll switch my schedule up a bit. If I’ve already taken a rest day and my body is still telling me a workout is a no-go, I’ll usually take a long, relaxing walk. This usually clears my mind and prevents “guilt” from creeping in later in the day. 🙂

    I love your outfit too!

    Enjoy your evening!

  24. I usually try to take at least one day a week off from exercise completely. Today is that day 🙂

  25. After your post this morning, I skipped my workout without the usual guilt!

    I hadn’t planned on skipping it, and the reason why actually had nothing to do with your post, but just reading about everyone’s experiences made me realize that beating myself up about it wasn’t fair to me or worth my time.

  26. Such great tips. It really is helpful to remember that REST can be as good for our bodies as EXERCISE. Thanks!

  27. You sold me on the pasta 🙂 Just ordered some!

    • Random ques, where do you buy your PB2? The only site I’ve found you have to order 4 at a time. Have you also tried the regular peanut butter (non chocolate one)? Thanks chica!!! XOXO

  28. I definitely feel guilty when I take days off, especially during the week. I usually find that once I get going, I am able to get through a pretty good workout, but some days your legs just don’t want to move.

    Good news though is that it is when you’re resting that you’re muscles are able to build and recover, so some days it is just as good to take a walk, do some yoga and be proud of yourself that you’re workout yesterday was so awesome that you’re still tired from it today 🙂

  29. Every day. =P I keep active and busy, but I never make it to the gym.

    However, staying busy and keeping my house spotless makes me happy. xD (Conversely, dirty house = uber guilt.) It gets my heart rate up and I break a sweat when I do.

  30. you are hilarious, great picture! Love this post …everything you said is SO true and people often push themselves beyond limits to be “healthy” when it is probably one of the most unhealthy things you can do. It’s all about having a happy balance! Have a great weekend!

  31. Wonderful wonderful wonderful post! I train 3 days on and 1 day off, and every now and then my body tells me it’s had enough by giving me flu-like symptoms! Does this ever happen to anyone? I get achy all over, feel tired, and sometimes my belly will even hurt. On these days I try to eat light and alkaline producing foods and have a thorough session of pranayama, hatha yoga and meditation…which always does the trick 🙂

  32. what a great post! i def needed this to keep me from exercising too much on the weekends when i do so much walking for work everyday during the week!

  33. I wish my job allowed me to wear things that cute! Oh well, you can’t have everything in life, but I CAN do yoga on my lunch break, so that makes up for it. 🙂

    I have quite a bit of guilt at the prospect of not hopping on the treadmill for a day, and I know it is a little stupid, but I just do. I love my morning treadmill session as it gives me time to get my mind together and set my intentions for the day.

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  34. I’ve definitely been a victim of the guilt!! I typically take 1 day off per week, which my bod absolutely loves! I used to go every single day but that’s pretty much a recipe for burnout. Now, I usually take Saturdays off. If I have to sub another instructor’s spin class, I make up the rest day later on in the week.
    Have a great weekend!

  35. My workouts burn more than 3,500 calories…just got to ride a bike for a living.

  36. Your meal looks delish! 🙂 I thought I was alone with this guilt. I always feel so bad when I take time off from gym, but you’re right our bodies do need rest. I took off yesterday and taking off tonight as well. I have been going to gym every single day for quite a while. Break is good. 🙂

  37. I’ve had to take off days like you talk about in this post and I appreciate you posting all the benefits of it. I have to through a list just like that everytime I take a day off to help me get through the day but it really helps. So thanks! And I really like your blog!

  38. […] that, I was catching up on some blog reading & I was reading Julie’s blog & Jess’ blog. Julie talked about feeling guilty about not exercising- and how to avoid it. She also brought up a GREAT point that REALLY impacted me- it takes 3500 calories to gain ONE […]

  39. Thank you for the tips, I feel a little better. I’ve been so busy this week I havn’t had chance to go to the gym and I normally go 5 times a week. Feeling pretty guilty :S

  40. Julie- this post (as well as the comments on it!) completely changed my outlook on days off. Before I read this, I would have to FORCE myself to take days off and as a result, I would be in a foul mood the entire day and eat horribly- my way of “lashing out”.

    Thanks so much for the tips and justifications! In fact, I have started to take more days off because I can run SOO much further after a day off!

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