Like any question worth answering: it depends.
Let's start by splitting people in two very broad categories: Those who are living a fit lifestyle and will never let go and those who want to be fit, maybe have attained fitness, but go about it in, shall we say, "fits and starts," so that it's more an on-again, off-again relationship.
For the later, a little guilt behind the eyeballs is going to help. If feeling guilty about missing a workout helps you be accountable, then guilt may be all the Jillian Michaels you need screaming down your neck to get moving.
For the former, those of us (and I do include myself in that group) who know any absence of fitness in their life is going to be temporary (whether it's two days of missed workouts, which is usually my tolerance level, or say months, due to illness or injury) guilt has no place.
Good Reasons Vs. Bad Excuses
Nine times out of ten we miss a workout because of a bad excuse (even though we might think it's a good reason). Bad excuses take on many forms, but 99.8 percent of the time it boils down to "I just don't have time," or "I am just too tired." If I haven't convinced everyone reading this blog that we can always find time to exercise, I've failed you miserably. Same goes with the too tired excuse. Thirty minutes of exercise trumps 30 minutes in bed in the morning. Does that mean you can never use a bad excuse to skip a workout. Nah! We all need our indulgences folks. Sometimes I eat two desserts in one day! Gasp! Sometimes I get a massage when I don't feel like I need one! Ohhhhh... naughty! Sometimes I watch Oprah without folding clothes! Throw the woman a box of bon bons! Sometimes I don't workout for no good reason! Hey, we all need to indulge every now and then, even Michael Phelps. Poor kid. If anyone deserved a hit off a bong, he certainly did.
Wait, where am I going with this? OK, yes, bad excuses: covered. Now, on to good reasons to miss a workout. This is especially important for those in that fit lifestyle group; we don't always see a good reason to skip a workout when we should and tend to exercise at all costs. Just because you can doesn't mean you should. I could give you all sorts of pertinent examples, but only you can know when skipping a workout to do something else makes sense. For some people a bad excuse may be a good reason and vice versa. In this way, we not only have to "know our body" but also, "be real with our mind."
Weighing the Trade Offs
Life is always about trade offs. I'm not here to tell you you can do it all. I'm sure someone else is blogging about that. However, I believe you can do as much as you want over the duration of your life. That requires making choices.
To bring it back to fitness: This week has been an exercise in trade-offs, which is to say, that's the only "exercise" I have had. To wit:
Monday's choice: Get up and workout at 5:30 a.m. or take my children to the zoo in the afternoon.
Monday's decision: How is that an either/or decision, you ask? I don't want to use being 37 weeks pregnant as an excuse to skip workouts, but the reality is two-fold: for one, the early morning workouts require downtime in the afternoon these days, and two, with a newborn soon come, I'm not sure when we'll get back to the zoo. I wanted to do something fun with the girls. As it turned out, they like to run from one exhibit to the next, so walking the zoo for two hours was more of a workout than I expected.
Monday's outcome: No guilt.
Tuesday's choice: Go to the gym after preschool or go to the new American Girl Doll store at the Mall of America.
Tuesday's decision: I have three daughters who have only seen American Girl dolls through the catalog (interesting how we found our way on their mailing list). My children have been pleading for weeks. In this case mother guilt trumped exercise guilt. And, if you've ever been to the Mall of America, you know I got another great walk workout in.
Tuesday outcome: No guilt. And I didn't spend a dime in the store. Another victory of sorts.
Wednesday's choice: OK, I'm now going on two days of unofficial workouts. But the day is packed with things to do. The list is long and time is limited for me.
Wednesday's decision: I fall back on allowing the last two days of walking the zoo and the mall to count as workouts and blow through my to-do list, which I can only do because Work Out Partner Pam is watching my children all afternoon. I feel victorious at my accomplishments: I even took care of renewing my expired license and a trip to the dentist to replace my 11-year-old and now cracked night guard (mild mannered during the day, but don't get between my teeth at night--some vicious clenching going on).
Wednesday's outcome: No guilt, but I miss the gym.
Thursday's choice: I would normally go to the gym after preschool--especially if I haven't had an "official workout" in days. But, my friend Christina is in town and this is the only day we have to spend together.
Thursday's decision: Don't be silly, of course we're hanging out, what kind of worm would I be?
Thursday's outcome: Don't be silly, of course I won't feel guilty over spending time with her instead of at barbell strength class.
But come Friday morning I am out of good reasons to skip exercise. I will work out. If anything keeps me from the gym it will only be a bad excuse.
Now my good reasons may not be your good reasons. But we all have them and need to honor them from time to time (or sometimes all in the same week). Sometimes we need to make trade-offs in life. And little indulgences? Yeah, don't deny yourself those, either, just be wary of people taking photos.