“Suck it up, Buttercup!”
“Don’t stop when it hurts, stop when it’s done.”
“No one ever regretted a workout.”
We’ve all seen those fitspo quotes, right? Well, actually, there are plenty of people who have definitely regretted a workout. Just because you physically can workout, doesn’t always mean you should. As a trainer, you’d think a lot of my work with clients would be about encouraging them to exercise on their own, to get to the gym when they just want to skip a workout. Surprisingly, though, most of the time I find myself gently telling people when they’re overdoing it, or why they need to give themselves a little break, either from working out or from beating themselves up over skipping a workout.
No, it’s not some form of crazy personal trainer reverse psychology. There are some legitimate reasons you should skip your workout – sometimes it just takes an objective viewpoint to recognize it for yourself. Here are the 6 reasons you should skip your workout:
No brainer. Rest. If you have a sniffly nose and you think you’re coming down with something, you can try your workout and see if it makes you feel better or worse. But the moment any kind of cold gets below the neck (i.e, coughing), if you have a fever, or any kind of stomach ailment, just stay home and get better. Making your system do work repairing muscles is just going to hamper your recovery from illness, leading to more time off exercise in the long run.
You have a niggling pain or ache you haven’t addressed but feel like you can work through.
Oh, but it’s not an injury, right? It’s just a constant, recurring pain in the same area when you do a specific exercise? As athletes, we like to kid ourselves that we’re not injured when we are, or that something can be ‘worked through.’ If something hurts or doesn’t feel right, rest. Once you feel it getting a little better, try a light version of your usual workout to test whether you’re recovered. And if it lingers, see a doctor! Resting a little bit now can prevent a lot of enforced rest if your workouts make the injury worse.
You are not looking forward to your workout. And you kind of hate everyone right now.
If exercise is a major part of your life, overtraining can be a real possibility. Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Working out to the point of overtraining can lead to some physical and emotional issues. If you are dreading a workout you’d usually love; if you’re exhausted all the time and can’t work out why; if you’re irritable and cranky at everyone in your life, you may be overtraining. The best way to recover from it is to take a giant step back. Take a couple of days off from working out completely to see if your mood and body feel better. Once you feel more like yourself, don’t be tempted to go straight back to your full-on workout schedule. Ease back into your routine with shorter workouts, or less intense sessions.
You’re using a workout as a way to “make up” for unhealthy eating.
Exercise should never be about offsetting an unhealthy activity. You’ll never hear me say any kind of food is “worth” x amount of time running, because in my mind, you workout because you enjoy it, you like the way it feels to be active and it’s good for you. Sometimes chocolate happens. Sometimes a lot of chocolate happens. But it’s not going to be helped by exercising more, for a longer period of time, or when you really don’t want to, just as a way of making up for something you ate. Address the core issue – if you consistently make unhealthy eating choices, see a dietitian or a nutritionist to assess your habits. Papering them over with exercise as a form of punishment won’t work long term.
You refuse to skip a planned day in your training plan. No matter what.
It’s written down that you have a certain workout to do today, so you must do it, despite any other circumstances, simply because the training plan is there. Does that sound familiar? Let go of perfection. We can’t always follow a schedule to a tee and trying to be perfect at your training plan is a sure way of sucking the fun out of it. If you have a coach, or someone you know who is a fitness professional, ask their advice about your training plan. Which workouts are vital every week? Which would be okay to skip every now and again if work gets crazy, or you have a terrible night of sleep? Most importantly, give yourself a break if life gets in the way occasionally.
You have a special occasion.
Anyone who has trained for a big event like a marathon or a triathlon knows the amount of time you invest into training for it is a big chunk of your life. It takes a lot of planning and a fair bit of sacrifice as well. Skipping drinks on a Friday with coworkers, or leaving a party early because you have a big workout in the morning are kind of par for the course. But there are times when it’s okay to skip your workout (or reschedule if it’s truly a workout you can’t miss). Your best friend’s 40th birthday. A close friend’s wedding. Dinner with someone you haven’t seen in forever who’s in town. You know the occasions that are special to you. Give yourself permission to enjoy them without feeling guilty about a missed exercise session.
I want to hear – which camp do you fall into? Or are you one of those rare breeds who take rest days without worrying they’ve lost all fitness? 😉