Missed Workout: Do's & Don'ts for Managing Guilt, Muscle, & Fat Loss

by | Exercise, Fitness

Contrary to popular belief, you only have a couple of options when you miss a workout. Most “problems” are just in your head.

This is why it’s important to understand how your body works. Also, how it’s affected when you skip gym days. Armed with this knowledge you can get the best out of your training. Even when you’re inconsistent.

How to Cheat the System When You Skip The Gym?

Numerous bodily systems control how you look and function. Disturbing homeostasis (the body’s normal way of work) is very hard. You need to alter your behavior drastically and sustain the change for days.

Anything short of major trauma is not enough to cause notable alterations in just a few days. You can miss training for some time before your body finally reacts. This gives you a lot of flexibility. But you need to know where’s the limit.

Here’s how you’ll be affected based on your goals:

  • Recreational trainee – training is how you build muscle and stay in shape
    • Working out is vital for maintaining the lifestyle but takes time to lose your gains
    • Skipping up to 2 weeks won’t affect your looks much
  • Weight loss – training helps burn more energy and lose fat
    • Fat loss is mostly determined by the diet. Training speeds up the process. The more you rely on it, the more you’re affected when you miss a session.
    • Skipping more than 1 week may slow progress, but you'll keep losing fat.
  • Health – training makes you feel and perform other daily tasks optimally
    • Health is based on overall lifestyle. Training is just one piece of the puzzle.
    • Skipping up to 2-3 weeks* won’t have a notable impact on your health

*Provided you’re leading a healthy lifestyle and other areas of your life remain unchanged.

Skipping a few workouts doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily degress. But you’ll need to build back your momentum. You may also be affected physiologically.

Do Other People Get Stress Out When They Miss a Workout?

It’s common for a lot of people to overblow the importance of a missed session. It usually happens if you’re emotionally invested in the outcome.

Here 2 tips to help deal with shame and self-blame:

  1. Realize that a couple of missed workouts make little difference. They won’t stop your progress. Small setbacks have little impact on the big picture.
  2. Expect you’ll eventually fail and have bad days. It’s part of the process and everybody has those days. Be consistent most of the time. That’s what matters.

Feeling bad for missing a workout is normal. Just don’t let it turn into unjustified shame or guilt.

Winners Don’t Train Every day, They Have Other Secrets

Consistency is the key to achieving your goals as quickly as possible. But even pro athletes can’t sustain everyday training for long. There are interruptions due to traveling, holidays, etc.

What turns you into a winner is not being perfect all the time. That’s impossible. It’s about knowing how to handle setbacks and bad days.

Here’s how to manage different problems you’ll face when you skip a workout.

Will You Lose Muscle if You Take More Than a Week Off?

You can stay in bed for half a month and barely lose any muscle. As long as your nutrition is on point there’s not much to worry about. Muscle is hard to build but relatively easy to maintain.

Poor sleep, stress, high physical demands, and low protein intake can lead to rapid muscle loss. However, you can easily regain lost gains. The hard part is building new muscle tissue.

Even professional bodybuilders go for periods of 1-2 months of no training and dieting. Then get back in shape remarkably fast.

Does Workout Inconsistency Lead to Weight Regain?

If you normally do 2-3 light cardio sessions their role in fat loss is insignificant. That’s not the case when you’re engaged in different rigorous physical activities several times a week.

Most of the energy deficit causing fat loss comes from the diet. But hyperactivity can also be the primary driver of weight loss. Though very few individuals maintain such high activity levels.

For most people workout inconsistency won’t slow progress too much. Worst case scenario you hit a weight plateau. It’s very unlikely to start gaining weight if you missed a few gym sessions. If that’s happening, you probably blew your diet.

Is It OK to Skip a Workout if You're Tired or Sleep Deprived?

If you feel chronically fatigued that’s a sign you need to take it easy. But just because one day you don’t feel your best is not an excuse to skip the gym. Subjective feelings are not very accurate.

Not sure you’re if you should train? Try this:

  1. Go to the gym regardless of how you feel.
  2. Start your usual workout.
    1. If everything feels super hard and performance is down – stop and go home.
    2. If training is not affected – proceed with the workout

It’s very common to feel tired and demotivated during the day. But then feel energized once you start training.

Should You Train If You’re Still Sore?

You may feel sore after doing a novel or especially challenging movement. Never experiencing some soreness might suggest you’re not training hard enough

But soreness doesn’t always mean you had a productive workout. You can get sore without stimulating any desired adaptations. If you’re not seeing a positive change in your physique you may need to change your training program.

As for training while sore, it’s usually fine. If performance isn’t affected there’s no need to skip workouts. But if you’re too sore to do your usual routine, better go home and recover. You may also need to tone it down next time. Avoid getting excessively sore.

How Do You Recover From Missing a Workout Day

There are generally 2 ways to deal with missed workouts:

  1. Move your skipped workout to the next convenient gap your schedule – you lose nothing this way. Weekly training volume remains unchanged.
  2. Ignore the missed workout and proceed with your tasks as usual – useful strategy if you want to keep training days fixed during the same days of the week. The less optimal approach, but it won’t mess up your schedule.

When Is a Good Idea to Double Up on Your Training?

If you know you won’t be able to train you can certainly prepare. Stack 1-2 extra sessions together. Or make your normal training a bit harder. You’ll have more time to recover later when you can’t work out.

But increasing training after you already missed a few sessions may not be a good idea. Anything extra you do has to be followed by a sufficient recovery period. You’ll burn out if do your normal routine plus additional work while reducing rest days.

When possible double up on training before, not after, skipping workouts.

What Are Legit Reasons to Skip a Workout?

It usually comes down to your goals and priorities. If training is not an important part of your life you can afford to be very flexible. Skipping a couple of sessions is not a big deal.

Physical discomfort (including injuries) may also prevent you from training. Emotional problems can render you too distracted or distressed to handle a workout. Other times you may be overly fatigued and low on willpower. This is when you need to prioritize rest and recovery.

But if there are no other completing goals, your physical condition is satisfactory, and you’re not utterly depressed, you better hit the gym. Yes, some days motivation may be low. Though this is not an excuse to skip training. Apply the tips discussed here and make the best out of the week.

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Until next time!

~Niki, Fitness Mastery Coach

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