219 in 2019 · 220 in 2020 · 221 in 2021 · covid19 · fitness · habits · motivation

Workout guilt (no not that kind)

Image description: two canvas tote boxes tucked under two stacked chairs, yoga mat rolled up and stashed beside the chairs, yoga two wood and two foam yoga block between the canvas totes, two kettle bells in front of the blocks, blanket on chair. (Tracy’s home workout equipment)

Usually when people associate guilt with working out it’s guilt over NOT working out. I don’t agree with guilting ourselves over that but that’s not what I want to talk about. Instead, there is a new kind of guilt creeping into my awareness since I started being a part of a group that tracks workouts. This year it’s 221 in 2021. The fact of counting our workouts generates no end of hand-wringing, especially among people who are new.

I get it. When I first started I wanted to know what people “count.” But it’s only since COVID that I’ve noticed people expressing guilt that maybe they are counting too much. I mean if I count a Sunday 10K run as one workout, does a 20-minute walk at lunch count equally? If I counted a vigorous hour at the yoga studio back in the days before COVID, does one of Adriene’s 10 or 15 or 20 minute practices count?

Some people have an idea that it has to be at least 20 minutes to count. Many, including me, work with the idea of deliberate movement. But even then, I often will combine a short walk with yoga of whatever length as one, even if they were both deliberate and at different times. I do this because now that I am working home, almost every time I move it is deliberate. Sometimes I make myself do a short yoga session or go twice around the block or do a short run with hill repeats at lunch just to move. I don’t use a fitness tracker, but I bet I’m not reaching 2000 steps some days. That is not how I used to live pre-COVID. I used to walk a lot. The workouts I counted were at least 45 minutes because I didn’t really do other kinds of workouts back then.

I think there is a worry lurking behind some of the stress people are experiencing over counting too much is that they are somehow cheating. But cheating whom, I ask? There is no prize. There is no “system” to “game” here. All we are doing is tracking workouts. And to me, if someone deliberately works out, then yay! That’s a win.

It’s hilarious actually because lately I’m doing Superhero workouts 4-6 times a week, yoga pretty much daily, and a run or a walk every day. In January I counted them as three separate things most days. Now I’m more likely to count the superhero workout as one, and the yoga and walk or run as one.

It’s the end of February and I just hit 110 workouts. That seems somehow impossible, almost halfway to my annual goal. In fact, I’m bored of counting my workouts. If the point of it was ever to get a habit going, then I’ve achieved the goal already. And now it just feels embarrassing or something to be racking up so many workouts.

I wondered whether this was a “woman-thing” where we deny our achievements and want to downplay them. Kind of took me back to when people were all impressed when I signed up for the Kincardine Women’s Triathlon and I would say “it’s just a little triathlon, not an Ironman or anything.” Why do we do that to ourselves? It was a big thing to me, never having done one before! I was terrified and I did it. Yay me. No need to downplay it. Is that what’s going on now with the guilt of counting deliberate movement as workouts during COVID?

We are living through a global pandemic. We are housebound, sometimes in an actual lockdown. We are doing our best to show up for hour upon hour of virtual meetings for work (well, this is my reality) and stay upbeat even when the idea of one more hour on zoom is soul-crushing. We haven’t been able to sit down to dinner with friends since the patios closed last fall. We didn’t see our families for Christmas. We wear masks to the grocery store. We’ve lost family members and friends and not been able to mourn them together in person because of COVID restrictions on travel and gathering and touching one another. We have been unable to make solid plans. We don’t know what life will look like post-COVID.

We have cobbled together home workout spaces over time, tucking our yoga mats and dumbbells in the corner when we’re not using them to make space for our (albeit truncated) daily lives at home. We are actually using that equipment (remember back in the day when we bought stuff to workout at home and it just gathered dust? Remember?).

Given all that, it’s pretty darn awesome if we do something active on purpose. Maybe we’re on track to 650-700 workouts this year and without COVID we wouldn’t be. Silver linings and all. Go us! Let’s check the guilt at the door.

7 thoughts on “Workout guilt (no not that kind)

  1. I’m also in that group, and have been for the past three years, I think, but last year was the first year I got anywhere close to hitting the goal, and even exceeded it quite a bit.

    I think part of what helped me was the pandemic. Even though it meant I was no longer able to go to the gym, it also meant I couldn’t do a lot of other things that usually took the place of my workouts. Working from home means I have zero commute time, too, so it’s easy for me to fit in a 30 min or so walk once or twice a day. I have some home gym equipment, and my pod buddy has even more, so a couple times a week I’m at her place lifting heavier weights.

    My pod buddy was my new workout partner last year pre-COVID, so I may have done just as well without the pandemic shutting down the rest of my social activities, but who knows?

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  2. Great post.

    No guilt here. I blogged about whether I’ll work out less when the pandemic comes to an end and we can go to the theatre again, hear live music, have dinners out with friends and the answer is YES. There’s a lot to miss so I am not going to feel guilty about doing more of the thing that I can do. https://fitisafeministissue.com/2021/02/03/will-i-be-this-physically-active-when-i-have-more-activities-to-choose-from/

    And as you note there’ll be less formal ‘workouts’ but more everyday movement. I miss walking between buildings for meetings so much!

    But also, like you, I find some things hard. Mostly getting outside for walks now there’s often no need to do so. So if counting helps me get outside then I’m going to count walks. It’s a very pragmatic thing.

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  3. Thank you for writing this. I’m in the group as well and the discussion of high workout count guilt reminds me of my own concerns/guilt about whether my posts showing some of the things I’m proud of come across to others as show-offy. Circus is a performance art that is literally meant to be shown off. But still there is a little voice somewhere in the back of my head whispering that I’m “too much”. I mostly tell that voice to shut up, but I’ve yet to figure out how to make it fully go away.

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    1. I love reading about your workouts. It’s a glimpse into a world I don’t know much about. I’m impressed but I don’t think sharing is showing off.

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  4. This is what happens to me, because of pandemic I started to workout, the reason? simple because of boredom and want some shape. as a beginner, I exercise 20-30mins a day but most of the time I am lazy to do it. So this is right, go with a group of people who are motivated to achieve your goal or have a personal coach.

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