By Sarah Gleim
Nobody's perfect, especially when it comes to a maintaining a regular workout routine. It’s tough to get to the gym every day when you have so many other demands in your life. And then there are those unforeseen emergencies, like forgetting to pack socks, having your smartphone fall into a toilet (ugh) or needing to take a mental health day that doesn't include sweating (unless it's in a sauna).
The key to staying on track and achieving your fitness goals is knowing how to make the most of the exercise time you missed. Here are five simple solutions to help you stay on program like a pro when you need to bail on your workout.
1. Don’t Feel Guilty
First of all, forget about guilt. You have a life outside of the gym that requires your attention. And anyway, skipping one workout isn’t going to throw your routine completely out of whack. Just be sure to get back into your groove ASAP. Letting yourself get bogged down with an overwhelming sense of shame if you miss a few days can wreak unnecessary havoc on what you’ve worked so hard to achieve.
2. Eat Right
If you know ahead of time that you’re not going to hit the gym, don’t let that be one of the days you spoil yourself with guilty-pleasure foods. Registered dietitian Carolyn O’Neil, author of Southern Living: The Slim Down South Cookbook, says the days you simply must skip the gym are the days you definitely want to keep your menu lean and mean. She suggests a breakfast high in protein -- something as simple as adding an eight-ounce glass of fat-free milk to your meal. “It has more protein than an egg,” she says. “For lunch, go for a big salad with lean protein like grilled chicken, canned tuna or even grilled steak. But skip the extras like cheese crumbles, bacon bits and fried croutons.”
O’Neil suggests that you view your plate as if it's a round canvas, especially if you have to dine out. “Paint on half the plate with vegetables and fruit, one-quarter of the plate with lean protein (grilled fish, chicken, beef or pork tenderloin) and the other quarter with whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa or whole grain bread,” she says.
3. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Hydration is super important to staying alert and energized -- even on those days when you have to skip the gym. O’Neil says one of the reasons we feel lethargic, cranky and headache-y is because we’re dehydrated. She recommends hydrating all day long with water, sparkling water or unsweetened iced tea. “You can flavor water with a little juice if you need to, because research shows that if the water tastes good, we’ll drink more of it,” she says. “And all that running to the loo will keep your heart rate up, too!”
4. Work Out Where You Can
Even though you won’t be hitting the gym, you can still burn extra calories throughout the day. O’Neil says there are lots of simple things you can do to incorporate physical activity into your day to help make up for skipping the gym. For instance, park your car in the spot farthest away from the door at work, and forgo the elevator and take the stairs. If you pack your lunch from home, you can even take a walk during your lunch hour (or tackle those stairs again!). O’Neil suggests even doing a few planks in your office or cubicle -- one 60-second plank in the morning and one 60-second plank in the afternoon. “These will keep your abs and arm muscles pumping even if you’re not in gym clothes,” she says, “and your coworkers will be impressed.” You can also take advantage of your time at home after work by doing squats, sit-ups or lunges during the commercials of your favorite shows. Just get your heart rate up however you can.
5. Plan To Get Back in the Gym
Finally, the best way to recover from skipping a few days at the gym is to, well, get back in the gym. The worst thing you can do is get out of your routine completely, because then your routine becomes not going to the gym. If you think you need to make up your missed day, by all means, go for it. If you feel secure enough to return to your normal schedule, that’s OK, too. Just keep in mind that everybody is going to miss a day or two at the gym every now and then. It’s getting back in the gym that’s most important.