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What Is Gym Guilt?

I Work Out All the Time, and Gym Guilt Still Makes Me Feel Like Sh*t

Being healthy is hard f*cking work. As someone who's struggled with weight and body issues since high school, I know that it takes more than just wishing to see an actual difference in how you look and feel. I spent most of college drinking and eating fast food, which caused me to have extremely low self-esteem. I was uncomfortable in my own skin, constantly got mad at myself for not doing anything about it, and had a pretty warped thought process for what I considered to be "healthy." Shortly before graduation, I ditched a lot of the booze and other unhealthy habits and started taking proper care of myself. That was more than eight years ago, and while I'm healthier than I've ever been, it's still hard f*cking work.

I know that I need a break, and I give myself one, but you know what? I always, without fail, feel so guilty about it.

Throughout my fitness journey, I've had a love-hate relationship with a good sweat session. Most days, I love it. I love releasing any anger, stress, sadness, or worry from my day through a workout; I love the feeling of being tired and accomplished afterward; and I love that sweet, sweet soreness the next day that's proof of a battle well-fought. I'm a very competitive person, so setting goals for myself and beating them also makes me feel really good. I used to hate running, so I ran a half marathon in a small town in Ireland all by myself (having nobody waiting for me at the finish line was actually awesome). I always thought lifting weights wouldn't do anything for me, so I tried working it into my regular routine and have never looked back. And I used to think that sticking to the same boring workout for years was fine until I challenged myself to do something different every day (one word: ow).

But as much as I love working out and feeling strong, there are a lot of days when I just don't want to do it. Either I'm too tired, stressed to the point where I tell myself I deserve to sit down, already hungry for dinner, battling terrible cramps, or, yes, just lazy. Most of those days I power through and work out anyway (I try to work out five days a week). But other days, I give myself a break. I'll skip the gym to binge Netflix, take a nap, get some more work done, or (if I'm battling those cramps) eat dark chocolate and peanut butter. And on many of these days when I skip the gym, I'm listening to my body telling me it needs a rest. I know that I need a break, and I give myself one, but you know what? I always, without fail, feel so guilty about it.

While I'm relaxing on my random off day, I think about how I could have probably just done a 20-minute workout to feel like I at least did something that day (and to make me feel less guilty about eating that cookie at work). I'll scroll through Instagram and see other people at fitness classes or posting a motivational quote that would speak to me on any other day, but because I'm seeing it while I'm lying on my couch, I beat myself up over it. I could have had four killer gym sessions in a row, but if I decide to go to dinner with my friends on Friday night instead, guilt will creep in and stay a while. Of course, there are things I want to change about my body, and I would love to be leaner and fitter than I am now, so skipping one day in the gym makes me convince myself that I've somehow taken 10 steps back.

It also doesn't help that my husband is extremely fit. On his "off" days from the gym, he'll go for a casual five-mile run. If we have a busy Saturday and get home late, I'll get into my pajamas and ready to watch a movie while he'll put on his running gear to go the gym before we start the movie. My usual response? "Are you kidding me right now?" He's upped the amount of days he works out from five to six or seven, so when I take the weekend off after kicking my own butt all week, I'll feel like I'm not doing enough. And, in every other season except Winter, our weekends usually consist of hiking, biking, or chasing our dog around the park.

Getting rid of this gym guilt is something I've been trying to work on for the last few years. It's an uphill battle, much like staying consistent in the gym is, but I am trying. I'm really proud of how far I've come and how healthy I am, and I try to remind myself to focus on that instead of worrying about missing one sweat session. It's not the end of the world, and my body won't magically fall apart because of it. Everyone needs rest days. So while going to the gym on regular basis is a crucial part of my self-care routine, so is the occasional date with my couch.

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