If you’ve been exercising for any length of time, you’ve likely found yourself tempted to skip a scheduled workout every now and again. This desire to skip a workout can arise for many different reasons. Maybe you’ve had a long day, you’re tired, feeling crummy, are traveling, really busy or just plain lazy.
Whatever the reason, it’s important to know the difference between a legitimate reason to skip your workout and just low motivation.
While taking a day or two off from working out won’t affect your fitness in any big way, pushing through the times when your body really needs a rest day could definitely cause some harm.
Not to mention, skipping one workout due to laziness can often lead to another and another, and before you know it you’ve completely fallen out of your workout routine.
However, these five situations are times when skipping a workout is definitely okay – and usually downright necessary.
5 Times When You Should Definitely Skip a Workout
You’re sick – and the symptoms are below the neck.
While light exercise with a cold can sometimes help you feel better, there are definitely some times where it can make it worse. It’s important to read your body when you start to feel run down – and if you’re experiencing symptoms below the neck, it’s time to skip your workout.
Symptoms below the neck, such as chest congestion, a deep cough or body aches, are often the sign of an illness that requires your body to rest. With these types of illnesses, pushing yourself to exercise will usually make things worse.
If you’re feeling crummy and unsure whether or not you should complete your scheduled workout, always play it safe. Skipping a workout due to illness of any kind is a perfectly legitimate reason. As long as symptoms persist below the neck, continue to skip your workouts until they disappear.
You have pain in one specific spot.
Feeling pain during or after a workout can sometimes mean that your body is working hard to build new muscles and gain strength. But there’s a difference between feeling sore all over and feeling isolated pain.
Pain in one localized area may often be the beginning of an injury, and pushing through this type of pain will likely only make it worse.
Evaluate the pain you are experiencing: is it in one localized area or just a generalized ache? Does the pain cause you to alter the way you walk or move? Does the pain get worse with activity?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, it’s definitely time to skip a workout (or two or five). Take some days off and then try different forms of cross training to ease back in. If the pain reappears, it’s time to cut back again because it’s not completely healed.
The past few workouts have left you feeling tired rather than energized.
It feels pretty counterintuitive to think that working out, being active and moving your body will actually leave you feeling more energized than if you took a relaxing nap – but it’s true. Many athletes discover that they have more energy on their active days than their rest days.
However, if you’ve been finding yourself finishing a workout feeling depleted, lethargic and downright sluggish – you may actually be experiencing burnout.
Many athletes fight through burnout, refusing to believe that they are experiencing anything more than just laziness or low motivation. But burnout can be a very real thing, and without a break, it could lead to something more serious like injury or illness.
If you’re struggling to find the energy to get going each day, skipping a workout or two might be just the break your body needs to bounce back.
Squeezing in a workout means you’d have to stay up all night.
Maybe fitting in a 30 to 60 minute workout wouldn’t cause you to stay up all night, but on those really busy days, it’s sometimes better to just call it a rest day.
While working out definitely has some stress relieving benefits, it can also add to your load each day. If you find yourself continually stressed to the brim trying to fit everything in already, trying to make time for a workout just to avoid feeling guilty probably isn’t in your best interest.
If you’re unsure how you’ll get everything done when you glance at your to do list, or discover that your entire day will be spent chauffeuring kids around from one event to the other, cut yourself some slack and just skip your workout.
However, there is a fine line here between actually being too busy and just feeling too lazy to make the time. More often than not, finding time in the day to fit in a good sweat session will help relieve stress – even when you’re busy.
But on those rare days when we find ourselves bursting at the seams, frantically running from one place to the next – it’s okay to cut yourself some slack and miss a workout. Take advantage of the extra time to get everything done, and start the next day feeling fresh, accomplished, and ready to get back on track.
You’re traveling on an active vacation.
Don’t get me wrong – I am a big supporter of exercising on vacation. But if your trip already involves tons of hiking, biking or snorkeling, there’s no need to wake up before dawn just to tire yourself out with a workout.
If you’re heading out on an active vacation, taking the week off from structured workouts will likely do no harm to your fitness progress. If anything, focusing on different activities throughout your vacation will help strengthen new muscles and provide a healthy amount of cross training.
Use this trip to enjoy time with your friends or family while exploring a new area. Make the most out of every activity without wearing yourself out by trying to fit in extra workouts on a tight schedule.
While these five situations definitely warrant a guilt-free rest day, there are a few instances where it’s more beneficial to power through and complete your workout. If you’re struggling to decided whether or not to skip a workout, these next five situations are probably not a time to take an unplanned rest day.
5 Times When You Still Need to Workout
You have a small head cold.
If you’re starting to come down with a runny nose or slight headache, fitting in a workout might be just what you need to get rid of these pesky symptoms. Stick to your routine and you might find yourself feeling better afterwards than when you began.
You didn’t sleep well last night.
It’s hard to get motivated when you’re feeling tired, but if you’re hoping to sleep better tonight, a workout is sure to do the trick. Shorten your workout if you’re still feeling sluggish once you get started, but even just 10 or 15 minutes of exercise might give you the energy you need to make it through the day.
You’re tired after work.
There’s nothing more challenging that coming home from a long day of work and getting motivated to do exercise. Those hours at work are so mentally taxing that it’s hard to want to do anything afterwards besides collapse on the couch. However, fitting in your regular workout is a great way to de-stress and unwind after a long day of work.
To combat this excuse, try starting a morning workout routine!
Your legs are a little sore from yesterday’s workout.
It’s tempting to skip a workout when your legs are still feeling sore from a hard effort the day before. But as long as the soreness isn’t isolated to pain in one specific area, exercising might help flush out that lactic acid and speed up your recovery.
You just don’t feel like it.
Ah, we’ve all been there. No matter how long we’ve stuck to our fitness routine, there will always come a day or two where we just don’t feel like working out. Powering through on these off days may help you regain some energy, keep your momentum going and remind you of your purpose.
Maintaining any sort of workout routine requires just as much mental motivation as it does physical. No matter how much you enjoy exercise, there will always be a time when you just don’t want to do it. During these moments, it’s important to listen to our body and determine what message it is telling us.
If you’re experiencing any of these first 5 situations, taking some time off and skipping a workout or two will help you recover without losing any fitness.
However, if you’re just feeling lazy or unmotivated, powering through will help you stay on track. Some days we’re proud of giving it our all in the gym, while other days we’re simply proud that we were able to get off the couch.
Listen to your body and always pay attention to the signals it is giving you. Remember that skipping just one or two workouts won’t cause you to lose any fitness – so when in doubt, play it safe.
More workout motivation and tips:
- The Biggest Obstacle Keeping You from Fitness Success
- 6 Tips for Maintaining a Healthy, Fitness Lifestyle
- 3 Genius Strategies to Achieve Your Fitness Goals