Missed Workout Shaming

The Only Bad Workout

Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time emphasizing the idea that doing something is better than nothing. In other words, a brief workout is typically better than no workout at all. There are exceptions to the rule however. It’s possible to be so run down that an extra day of rest is more useful than anything you’ll ever do in the gym. If or when you find yourself in that position, there is no shame in missing a workout. Rest up and come back stronger.

Listen To Your Body

The fitness industry has a funny way of trying to motivate people. One example is the often preached message that the only bad workout is the one that didn’t happen. I beg to differ. Just ask anyone (like me) who has accidentally dropped a 45 pound plate on his foot. If I had only missed that workout…

All jokes aside, intentionally missing a day when you are feeling run down or sick is often your best option. Recharging your batteries is always time well spent. You’ll come back feeling stronger while giving your immune system a much needed boost. There’s nothing macho about training yourself to the point of illness.

Remember, exercise is intended to improve your quality of life. It’s supposed to leave you feeling healthier, stronger, and more capable. If you regularly find yourself sick, injured, tired, and miserable, you are doing something wrong. Put the bravado aside and stop ignoring the feedback that your body freely provides. When it asks for rest, it’s a good idea to listen.

Reduce Stress, Or Increase It?

There’s no denying that exercise is a tremendous stress reliever. Few things reduce the stress of a chaotic day as well as a hard workout. Speaking for myself, everything just feels better after I’ve pushed myself. It’s almost as if my workouts double as therapy sessions for my mind.

Unfortunately, while exercise can reduce stress, I’m seeing more and more people who become stressed after missing a workout. It’s as if their world has come crashing down just because they missed leg day. Rather than using exercise as an outlet for stress, the thought of a missed workout has become a legitimate source of stress. That’s a problem.

Stress is a weapon of self-destruction. It can literally kill you. There’s an endless list of health problems that are in some way related. I may be old school, but even I recognize the dangers of stress. It’s not something that should be taken lightly. In fact, limiting your daily stress is perhaps the fastest way to improve your health.

The idea that a missed workout is somehow adding to your stress signifies a problem. Somewhere along the line you’ve been confused or misled to believe that one session will make or break you. It doesn’t work that way. I’ve been training for over 20 years and I’ve never lost my strength after a missed workout. Amazingly, I’m still able to function the next day. Life goes on and the missed workout soon becomes a distant memory.

Final Thoughts

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy training as much as anyone. I genuinely look forward to that time of the day. Yet, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize that despite my love of training, it’s only one part of my life. It’s not worth stressing myself out over a missed workout. Tomorrow is a new day that hasn’t been written. Rather than stressing the missed session, I’ll cherish the opportunity to come back even stronger. Working out tomorrow with a recharged battery will always feel better than training today on an empty tank of gas.

If a missed workout is the biggest problem in your life, you should take a moment to reflect on how fortunate you are. Things could always be worse.

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“If I had my life to live over, I would perhaps have more actual troubles but I’d have fewer imaginary ones.” – Don Herold


  1. I could not agree more with you, Ross. As a friend once told me, for those individuals who love to exercise and take care of their mind and body, a unique discipline must be developed … the willpower to not workout. Whereas the vast majority of people — for whom exercising is often guided by external pressures (i.e., advice of physician, urging by family) – are challenged with developing the habit of a consistent exercise program. To not work out or to work out … opposite sides of the same coin requiring equal measures of vision and mental grit. Nice article!

  2. I was recently sick with a flu that stopped me from working out for a week. I started to feel guilty about not trying to push thru it and work out. Against my better judgment I decided that even though my body was aching from sickness that a light workout would do me good.

    After warming up and some ab work I felt that I was going to push just a little harder. I picked up some cement bags I have taped together with the intent of walking with them only to injure my lower back worse than I ever have in my life.

    After another week off and multiple chiropractor visits and a painful massage I had the mobility to get in and out of my truck in a somewhat normal fashion.

    Had I taken the time my body needed to recover from the initial stress it was under I would have been further ahead. I don’t know who said “Sometimes you have to take a step backwards to move forward.” These words are very true. Years of hard work will not disappear after a couple weeks off.

    In part I blame the motivation from this website for my injury… Expect a bill for some of my medical expenses… 😉

  3. Thanks for posting this follow up Ross. I read this somewhere: Training = Activity + Recovery. Too many times in the past I have focused too much on the Activity and not enough on the Recovery throwing the formula and myself out of whack. One thing I think is important to point out is that Activity should include more than just your workout. I think you have to consider your Activity outside the gym as well. A stressful day at work, a long day of yard work, a full day with the kids, etc. can all affect your ability to train and subsequently recover.

  4. I agree to this. I heavily valued workout as one of the important means of becoming healthy. But if I found myself incredibly sick or not just in the mood in workout, I take a break for a day or two. It’s just ridiculous exhausting myself for nothing. However, I made sure that during those times where I am not working out I am having a relaxing, therapeutic massage. Massage is also a form of exercise since it soothes your body and relieves stress.

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