Are guilt and stress useful tools for getting your workouts in?

At the beginning of the week you are all set. You have your workouts planned, your gym bag is packed, you may even sleep in your workout clothes the night before.


And then it happens, a kid gets sick, you hit the snooze button one to many times, and get invited to a social gathering almost every night of the week. You skip your workouts day after day, even though you had the best intentions. You feel stressed, guilt and criticize yourself for falling off track yet again.

But do these emotions really serve us, make us more successful, and increase motivation?

Initially most will say that you must set expectations, follow through and give yourself some tough love, otherwise you will have no pressure or motivation to reach your goals and your willpower will fly out the door. The more pressure you put on yourself and the higher expectations you have, the more likely you will be to workout.

While this makes perfect sense in most peoples heads, it is actually the exact opposite!

Kindness and compassion towards one’s self are actually associated with more motivation and more self-control.

Say what? Studies actually show that instead of criticizing yourself, it is actually more beneficial to forgive yourself. Whether it is from a string of missed workouts or even a late night eating binge, stewing in your own guilt can actually have a negative impact on your motivation rather than a positive one.

What to do instead.

The next time you miss a workout, eat something you feel you shouldn’t have or the combo of the two, keep in mind the following.

  • Address yourself with self compassion and forgiveness.
  • Acknowledge that you were not inline with your goals (personal responsibility).
  • Troubleshoot about what you can do next time to get your workout in.
  • Give yourself the benefit of the doubt and move on quickly.

Chances are you are more likely to hold yourself accountable and learn from your experience. When you go into problem solving mode you give yourself an opportunity to create a solution to a challenge. When you go into stress, shame, guilt and anxiety mode you do not put yourself in a position to fix the problem itself.

Starting implementing this tool and see how it works for you. Prioritizing your workouts are essential, if they are important to you, but giving yourself permission to forgive when you miss one is a lot more powerful than most people realize.

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