Exercise Relapse: It happens to the best of us. How to recognize it and get back to your workout habits

Exercise Relapse: It Happens To The Best Of Us & WWL

Most of us at one time or another have fallen off the wagon of our exercise routine. One simple event, for example breaking your toe dancing to damn hard at BurlyCon, can keep you from working out.  Who even breaks their toe dancing? Oh, yeah. Me. 

That first workout you miss can easily spiral into missing a whole week if you aren’t careful. Missing a workout isn’t the end of the world and sometimes is completely out of your control. But, if you aren’t careful that one missed workout can lead to exercise relapse. There is a big difference between a lapse in your routine and a relapse though and it’s important to know and recognize the difference so you don’t completely regress back into old habits. 

Exercise Relapse
Exercise Lapse 

A temporary glitch in your routine. Perhaps you went on vacation, started a new job or some other life event came up that put a wrench in your schedule. It’s important to know that a lapse is temporary and short-lived.

Exercise Relapse

A relapse is returning to old pre-workout lifestyle habits. When you regress fully that one missed workout turns into a week, then a month. Then you can’t even remember what street your gym is on or why you own so many pairs of spandex pants. Relapse typically progresses over time when one event dominos into the next until you’ve lost all motivation or interest in working out. 

It’s much harder to bounce back from a relapse than it is a lapse in your routine. Because of this it’s vital to be able to distinguish the difference and identify situations that can become a risk.

These five simple steps can help you get back on track when you feel yourself veering off path. 

1. Acknowledge your obstacles and look for ways around them. For example, the barriers I’ve been dealing with are:
Time Management: juggling work, school, performing and starting a business 
Broken Toe – had to limit workouts to low impact or only upper body
Relationship difficulties – missing my workouts to spend quality time with my partner before he left on a backpacking trip
Lack of Motivation – once my routine broke it was hard to say “yes” to getting back to the gym

2. Remind yourself of why you enjoy working out. 
Better mood, more energy, weight management, improved health….remind yourself how good you feel post-workout

3. Set SMART goals:
Having simple, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based goals will help you keep from relapsing. Setting smaller goals helps us to continue to feel accomplished versus setting a large goal that starts to feel unreachable. For example:
“I will attend a flexibility class 2 times a week”
“I want to be able to do a handstand within the next 3 months”

4. Switch up your workouts to deter boredom:
Boredom is a huge player in exercise relapse. Switch up your workout routine every couple of months or try new classes at different gyms. Class Pass is a great addition to your gym membership or on its own to keep you active and stave off workout rut. 

5. Develop a support system: 
Surrounding yourself with other people who are active is a powerful tool in staying motivated.  Having a workout buddy who will hold you accountable to your gym sessions is a great, but supportive family and friends can be just as helpful.  You’ll notice as well if you workout at the same gym long enough, other members will start to notice if you’re not around. Having someone recognize your absence is a great motivation to head back to the gym.

Always remember a lapse is just temporary and you can avoid a full relapse with confidence, will-power and these five steps towards prevention. 

What are your biggest obstacles in sticking to your exercise routine?


Weekly Workout Log – After a Lapse

Monday –  said farewell to my partner for the next 6 months….
Tuesday – self-care day
Wednesday – total body superset workout & flexibility class at Yoga Pole
Thursday – rest
Friday – kettlebell & cardio HIIT workout
Saturday – handstand class at Yoga Pole
Sunday – handstand & flexibility classes at Yoga Pole


  1. i just HAD to share this in my fitness group. I teach Bootcamps and I see the revolving door of participants (it goes with the territory) but letting people know it is ok to take a break and rehash things is totally awesome!

    1. I think that’s the problem people get so down on themselves for lapsing or even having a full relapse that they lose faith in themselves and with it the will power to start again.

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