It will happen.
It happens to me. It happens to everyone:
Missing a workout, two workouts, or even a whole week of workouts.
And when it happens, you might be wondering what the ramifications are.
Did you lose any gains? Do you double up on your next training day?
Should you just say “screw it” and flip on some Netflix?
What to do if you miss a workout or two?
In my experience, recovery from a missed workout is more mental than physical. So many times, we expect perfection of ourselves, but refusing to cut yourself some slack will only result in a blow to your motivation.
These are the 4 steps I recommend taking if you miss a workout, based on what has worked for me.
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Step 1: Don’t freak
So now what?
First and foremost, don’t panic. Arguably the most important thing you can do when you miss a workout, is to put it in perspective.
So I’m going to say this once, loud and clear: Missing one or two workouts doesn’t instantly demolish all your progress.
I know missing a workout can be discouraging, especially if you’re still in the early stages of a fitness regime and you haven’t quite made it a habit yet.
And I used to let this totally derail me… I would miss one day and think all the progress I made on my previous workouts went out the window.
But missing a one day, or even a week, will not significantly affect your gains. In fact, it takes around 10 days before muscle tone even begins to be affected.
You might have even been due for a rest. Resting between training sessions is just as important as the training itself.
Because it’s when you rest that your muscles actually have the chance to build and repair.
Step 2: Be honest with yourself about why you missed your workout
This is not about finding excuses or casting blame. It’s about being objective about the circumstances and where your headspace was at when you blew off your workout, so that you can set yourself up for success the next time.
Of course, if you’re ill or nursing an injury, you absolutely need to be taking a break from exercise in order to give your body a chance to recuperate.
But what about other extenuating circumstances?
It’s true that life has a way of interfering with all our best laid plans. And for sure, there will be times when your workout gets trumped by something more important.
But if you do chalk it up to extenuating circumstances – especially if there have been two or three similar instances – I want you to ask yourself this:
Would the same situation that caused you to miss your workouts cause you to miss an important work meeting, or a recreational event you were really looking forward to?
If the answer is no, then move on to step 3. (Otherwise, just move on to step 4.)
Step 3: Assess and implement remedial measures
If you determined that missing your workouts was not due to extenuating circumstances, what can you do to fix it?
For example, did you miss your early a.m. workout because you slept through your alarm?
Okay, then the question is: how can we prevent that from happening again?
Maybe it means going to bed a little earlier, or maybe you’re asking too much of your body by getting up at that specific designated time.
Can you prep more in the evenings or make your workouts shorter so you don’t have to get up as early?
Or maybe you need to try a new time of day all together.
I needed to do this recently. I’ve been suffering from a lot of insomnia the past several months and morning workouts became an impossibility. (Always put sleep first!)
So now I workout in the afternoons the minute my work day is done.
I’ve been maintaining my training schedule 5-6 days a week ever since I made the change!
So find out what steps you can take to either make your workouts easier to stick to, or more difficult to blow off.
Step 4: Pick up where you left off
The temptation is to go extra hard at your next workout session.
But this is a good way to get injured. (I know this from experience!)
So do not try to do “extra” to make up for lost time.
For example, don’t try to cram 2 workouts into 1 session, or “punish” yourself with an extra 30 minute stint on the treadmill.
The solution is just to simply push your training program back a day or two and pick up where you left off as though nothing happened.
But what if the program you’re doing wants you to do specific workouts on specific days?
It doesn’t matter, honestly. The fitness police are not going to bust down your door because you decided to customize your training schedule a bit.
Now, if you’ve missed a few days, you can call it a do-over and start the week over again.
I did this when I was doing the Bodyboss program for the first time.
After week 6, I went to Turks & Caicos and was apparently on a mission to eat my bodyweight in pastries.
During this time I did zero workouts.
When I got back, I did week 6 again and *gasp* everything was fine. In fact, the week off helped me crush my workouts and better prepared me for the rest of the program.
What if I’m missing more than a week?
If you’re missing more than a week of workouts and it’s not because of illness or injury, and you just can’t seem to be consistent with your exercise routine, you are probably struggling with motivation.
I’ve said it a hundred times before and I’ll say it a hundred times again: no fitness program you choose is going to be effective if you are not in the right headspace to actually do the workouts.
How do you find sustainable fitness motivation? It’s the million dollar question, isn’t it?
Because it’s a personal thing and only you can motivate yourself. No one else can find the motivation for you.
That said, you can find help for adjusting your mindset.
I wrote an in-depth guide about adopting a fitness mindset based on what has helped me as a former exercise-hater. You can even download it as a PDF for free. (Although I will likely be turning this into a paid ebook soon so don’t wait to download it!)
In a nutshell, you really need to dig deep and unearth the real reasons you want to exercise.
Why do you want to lose weight or get fit? How will it change your life? I find it helps to get really specific and write it down either in a journal or even type it out on a Google doc.
The Takeaway: Missing a few workouts is not the end of the world
No matter how motivated or committed you are, you’re bound to miss a workout here and there because, life.
And it’s totally okay. Sometimes an extra rest day or two is actually beneficial.
Consistency doesn’t mean perfection.
Yes, you need to show up regularly, but it’s completely okay – and even necessary – to be flexible with your workout schedule.
No matter where you’re at, whether you’ve missed one day or ten, just get started up again!
What are your thoughts on what to do if you miss a workout or two? Do you stress out? Just count it as an extra rest day? Let’s talk about it in the comments!