Training and Guilt: The Kind That Comes From Not Skipping Your Workouts

What are the chances that everyone in your life is a lifter, runner, triathlete or cyclist? Not that high! Even if you get that lucky a lot of this is still going to apply to you, sorry. I can’t be the only one feeling guilty about my training out there from time to time at least, so I figured I’d fess up for all of you. Feeling guilty is not something you read a lot about in the fitness world because it doesn’t fit with the shiny perfect image lots of people want to put out there. People just want to inspire you to start something that’s still pretty great if you ask me! If you do read a post about guilt it’s for skipping a workout but this is about the ones you complete, so that’s different. Feeling guilty even holds ME back from time to time and my support group is way better at supporting than I am at sporting. Not everyone is that lucky so if I’m feeling guilty others MUST be too. I decided to divide this up into two sections guilt for things I’m doing and things I’m not doing, plus some stuff that might help you at the end.

I want to put it out there that I’m a pretty lucky lady in this regard overall. My partner is incredibly supportive overall. You can read about ALL of that at the end of this post. Even if I can tell he’s a little annoyed in the moment about something like waiting for me to run I always know that deep within his being on a basic human level he wants me to do what’s good for me and what I’m passionate about. My mom and stepdad have recently become runners and for the last year they often take me to my races. They even pay for them if I’m doing them with them. One even involved an overnight! My sister sometimes even drags her entire family out to the finish line (often in the rain) just so they can all give me high fives at the finish line. Even the little community I train in is full of friends and acquaintances that encourage my training and even the odd stranger around here has offered me their hose! How could I possibly feel guilty then?

I think all of us recreational athletes feel guilty from time to time. We give a lot of ourselves over to accomplishing our goals and some days at least that can be the best part of us. If guilt was a decent part of your upbringing *raises hand* you can still feel really, really guilty even in the best of circumstances. If you have the time, mental and physical energy to do a marathon, triathlon or fitness competition then couldn’t you instead be a better partner, employee, parent, friend or person instead. Isn’t there a better goal? At least shouldn’t your house be cleaner? There in lies the guilt. I think that for the most part there is value in digging deeper into stuff that bugs us and sometimes at least that can be through someone else’s experiences. So let’s get into it!

Stuff I’m not doing

When I’m working a training program there are often a whole lot of things that I’m not doing in the rest of my life plus fitting the actual training in can be hard too. In fact I’m often skipping the pretty essential stuff AND some of the training too. These are some of the more obvious things that you might think of when you read a post about guilt and training but they are still important too.

Skipping social stuff

Admittedly I don’t have to do this a whole lot because while we’re not hermits we’re not exactly RSVP-ing to things three times a week or anything. But sometimes I just have to say no to social stuff because training has made my plate too full. I usually find the time to make it to dinner invitations, birthday parties and the like but almost never the extra social stuff I want to do. This summer I didn’t even make it once to my favorite yoga class, paddling for the day in Three Peninsulas, to movie night in the truck and another year has gone by without trying our local SUP yoga class. I went for exactly one evening swim and my garden well that’s laughable again this year. Training certainly isn’t the only reason that I miss out on these things but it is a factor. All that missing out can lead to resenting the things you do that fill up those time slots or otherwise make you unavailable and that sucks. Plus being out celebrating someone and feeling like you should be running or doing mental time calculations the whole time your there makes me feel like a crappy person too.

Not grabbing all the work I can

Ask any self employed person rich or poor it’s very hard to turn down work and strike a work life balance. Taking on huge challenges like last year means that I have to find a way to say no to actual paying work. This one I find really hard because who couldn’t use more money, winters are long and who knows what tomorrow will bring? Right now for example I have two gardening people I should be starting with but I’ve been enjoying that post-wedding glow, my half is next weekend, we just had a hurricane and I haven’t even been getting all my runs in. There’s a pretty good chance they are going to find someone else and that’s the risk I take.

Later on if I feel like I didn’t accomplish enough this season or money is tight in February I always feel like I made the wrong choice. Perhaps people who work regular jobs where they are guaranteed their hours feel less crappy about all this but this one is a big one for me. If you say no or keep people waiting too long they’ll just find someone else. It might even be what leads me NOT to do a marathon.

Skipping runs

The best way for me to feel less anxious and more secure on race day it to know that I got all my training runs in. Sure from time to time life happens and you have to skip a shake out or a recovery run once or twice in a 12 week program. This cycle I basically lost a week of training and I feel really guilty about it. I should have gotten up earlier, procrastinated less, prioritized more and on and on. It doesn’t feel good to break a promise you made to yourself for any reason and others with more on their plates seem to get it done. I’m sure somewhere out there there is a single mom of three that works full time and does ironman or something. If she can get it done than I should have no excuses right?

Not keeping up my end of the bargain around the house

I generally do the cleaning around the house and the cooking not all of it but like 95%+ of it. When I’m in training I obviously do less of it. That means stuff can get pretty dirty and we end up spending an ungodly amount on take out. If honey does the laundry, unpacks the dishwasher or his favorite shorts are still in the dirty pile this week too I feel guilty about it. I feel like I should be doing that stuff and training should come second to all those responsibilities. Sometimes however they don’t.

Stuff I am doing

Here comes the less obvious stuff that makes me feel guilt ridden in training. It’s taken me a few years to realize that training cycles don’t only take you away from things you should be doing but also make you do things you’re not proud of too. Those things also make me feel guilty.

Getting up early

Even though we don’t have kids sleep can be an issue in our house at the best of times. It’s no secret that it can be a struggle for me but getting up early to train makes me feel guilty on so many deep and different levels. One is more obvious than the rest and that is waking others up. Honey goes to bed earlier than me, falls asleep deeply where as I struggle to wind down and basically need to feel exhausted before I hit the hay. It’s not a totally terrible thing though that fact is how this blog was born! I can be roused by my legs moving in the sheets in the first couple of hours of sleep but a dump truck could idle next to me come morning. Honey is the reverse. Late night machine sewing, no problem, but early morning water running can wake him up. Take away message I’ll never be able to get up early to run without a loud alarm and just opening drawers in the am is likely to wake him. I try to be quiet I really do but about 50% of the time I wake him up. If he was up late, really tiered or just really seems like he could benefit from a good night’s rest I try not to go in the morning, even if it means skipping an important workout. It seems to be worse in the summer when the sun is up when he stirs. If I do wake him I feel terrible about it all day and am waking on eggshells. But there are other issues too.

Getting up to run but not work can be an issue too. I sometimes go through bad bouts of insomnia and my period always makes me super tiered. I have worked on it a bit this year and made some good progress but it can cause an issue if I can’t seem to get up for my alarm at work time but am up before 6 to run and understandably so. My sleep schedule can also get thrown out of wack by a day or two of sleeping in an extra hour making it more likely for at least another week. Honey is great about letting me sleep when I need to before work but I don’t think he likes having to wake me up even when I ask him. So that delicate balance between early training days and catching up on sleep on others makes me feel super guilty too.

Tuckering myself out for work by exercising in the morning is an issue too. I work physically for a family business too. I’d like to think that I do better than average over a week of 5 hour nights or less but others might disagree. Sometimes in makes me cranky (more below), but it definitely makes me feel weak, less strong and less productive during those days. If I drop some slack those days at work others, family members, have to pick it up for me. That makes me feel crappy too.

Seriously, if you have tips on this I would love to know. So far I’ve tried moving my training clothes to another room, instant candle office coffee, various door/towel arrangements, mind tricks for setting fewer alarms and stocking feet. If you’ve got this licked please share with the group!

Being away a lot

Training means you’re not home or in the room spending quality time a lot of the time. I like hanging out and spending time with certain people when I can, really as much as I can. But training takes me away from that a lot. In the morning I miss quiet coffee time with honey and in the evening Netflix and chill time. We’re old an married now so that is ACTUALLY Netflix and chill. If it’s for a triathlon that year it seems like there are never ending errands to do too. Then it puts me behind in a few things that have to happen too like:

  • Laundry
  • Cooking
  • Cleaning
  • Side hustles
  • Writing
  • Car maintenance 
  • Errands
  • Grocery shopping
  • Hobbies
  • Bathing
  • And other stuff

Which is to say all that stuff still have to get done too and there are only so many hours in the day. Often the first thing I ask is what what happened while I was gone and sometimes it sounds like it would have been easier/ more fun if I was there. That sort of time away is not a luxury honey enjoys either. Not being present or present in the moment makes me feel guilty too.

Being tiered and or cranky

Though I think I’m an absolute delight 100% of the time I am assured that is NOT the case and how could it be? Choosing to train for something big kinda, sorta means you are also signing up for a spat or two with your loved ones. Not being the best behaved I can possibly be to the ones I love makes me feel guilty too. I work every day with my family and sometimes in training I’m tiered and dragging my a$$ and not capable of giving my all and once each cycle I fall asleep when I shouldn’t. Like that day that I weirdly fell asleep on the living room floor perfectly straight during a movie and honey said it was like being at my wake. Plus I’m sure that it’s a little irritating that for months at a time I’m saying “No, I’m fine, I’m not tiered at all!” When that’s clearly not the case. And yes I feel guilty about that too.

Filling my schedule and keeping others close to home

When I’m in training I try to keep up with all the other stuff I have to do too. This summer I gave myself a bit of a break though. I still have to work, go to family suppers, teach, write and now do some gardening and all that other life stuff too. That means my schedule is more than full up and the way we live our lives around here that means I’m keeping others close to home too. There’s not time for spontaneity and unstructured time. When I’m training that means honey is usually stuck at home waiting. As someone that hates to be kept waiting that makes me feel guilty too.

Spending those dollar bills

I am not a ‘spender’ type person but training and racing isn’t free. Just a half means entry fees, fuel for long runs, new gear, new music and at least two pairs of new shoes. I was probably going to buy the shoes anyway though. Plus other races to keep you motivated, smart phones, smart watches and smart hydration strategies all mean spending some dough. It’s even worse if it’s a triathlon! I could run and not race, wear my shoes when the make my knee sore or not ever travel for races and arguably still get the same benefits but I love medals so… Last year at the end of the season post I asked honey how much he thought I spent on racing that year. I think his answer was about $150 -$200. It was actually over $500 for entry fees and accommodations only and that’s getting on to a mortgage payment ya’ll! Just for the record he was like ‘wow’ and then “it’s something you love and it’s good for you.” Of course there is accessory spending too some of which is specific to racing too but most of it I’d arguably be buying eventually.

Time for a rethink

I do feel guilty form time to time about ALL of this stuff even though I have the best most supportive people all around me. Not having kids and working for ourselves can make it easier too. But exercise is probably the best thing I do for my mental health on the regular and definitely my physical health. Training for new challenges keeps me excited about it and motivates me to keep in up. Being on a plan pretty much forces me to keep that up for months at a time. Rest assured I do spend lots of time not in training every year too. 

Being physically healthy and mentally well makes me a better friend, daughter, worker, partner and person too. It helps even out life ups and downs the little ones and the big ones. It’s therapy, self care, me time and the best thing I can do for my health all at the same time. It’s my hobby, it’s my passion and it’s costing about the same as a gym membership most years. The energy I get overall definitely lets me work enough extra to make up for it. Whenever guilt is making me feel like crap I try to go back to that rational side of things and push those guilty feelings to the side. If guilt due to training has got you down try to finish the thought process with all of these great rational things that work for you.

Rather than being a feel bad for me post I want to let all you other guilt ridden athletes out there know that you’re not alone. Even in the most ideal life circumstances guilt can still be a factor in training. What makes you feel guilty about training? I’m guessing it can be pretty specific from person to person. Or has this stuff never crossed your mind?

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