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When You Really Should Skip Your Workout

Gina Harney - Blogs
By Gina HarneyCertified personal trainerAugust 30, 2018
From the WebMD Archives

You know how it goes: you’re sitting in the car, thinking about hitting the gym, but the thought fills you with dread. Do you need an off day, or just a kick of motivation?

To be totally honest, there are a lot of times when I think about skipping a workout. Maybe I don’t feel 100% that day. Maybe it’s been a stressful morning. Maybe I’m pondering all of the chores or work tasks I could accomplish instead. While most times I know I just need to get started and I’ll feel 1000x times better, there are also legit reasons to skip a workout.

Here are the top 5 reasons why hitting the gym may not be a good idea:

1. You’re sick. If you have a fever, are hacking up and sneezing your face off, or have body aches/chills, it’s a smart idea to stay home. Not only will you likely feel worse, but you could also infect those around you. I’ll never forget when I was taking an Orangetheory class and a woman a few benches away from me told the coach, “I’m taking it easy today because I have the flu.” The flu! Needless to say, I sanitized my entire body after that class and made sure to take my vitamins.

If you have a mild cold but feel well otherwise, I think it’s fine to get in a workout. A good rule of thumb is that if you feel well from the neck and above (slight sore throat, mild cold, etc.) and you want to work out, go ahead. If you feel sick below the neck (body aches, fever, chills), stay home and focus on recovery.

2. You didn’t sleep well the night before. This is happens a lot to parents with small kiddos. If you’re waking up multiple times per night and have the chance to catch up on sleep during the day or catch a workout, sleep wins. If you’re exhausted, there’s a good chance you won’t get a quality workout anyway. Lack of sleep also increases inflammation in the body, increases our cortisol, and can make us more susceptible to overeating (for energy!) and stress. Take a nap and hit the gym the following day.

3. You’re injured. This one can be super frustrating, especially if you have specific fitness goals or ride off exercise endorphins. (I’m convinced that exercise endorphins make me a better mom and human.) Listen to your doctor’s recommendations. If they tell you to nix formal exercise entirely, take the time to rest and know that you’ll be able to properly recover. If you go back to the gym too early, you can risk causing more damage and being out of action even longer.

In many cases, you’ll be able to find activities that work for your specific injury (with your doctor’s guidance). For example, if you have a broken arm, you can still likely do cardio workouts and lower body strength training. If you have a lower body injury, you can likely still do Pilates, upper body strength training, and possibly swimming. The really tricky one is core injuries (back or abdominals). You may need to lay off the formal workouts entirely until you’re healed.

4. You feel dehydrated or haven’t fueled properly. I’d advise skipping the gym if you feel light-headed and know that you have symptoms of dehydration (headaches, dry mouth, dizziness, etc.). When you work out, you could expend more water than your body has stored, which can cause an electrolyte imbalance. Spend a few hours leading up to your workout focusing on solid hydration.

To fuel your workouts, make sure that you’re eating a balance of healthy fats, lean proteins, and smart carbs to promote balanced blood sugar and provide needed energy.

5. You’re over-training. Results occur during rest, not work. If you’re not taking ample time off each week, your body isn’t able to repair its muscle tissue and grow back stronger for next time. You need 1-2 days off each week from formal exercise. This will also help to prevent burnout! If you haven’t had a rest day this week, take the day to stretch, maybe enjoy light yoga, a walk with the dogs, and be ready to hit the gym even harder next time.

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About the Author
Gina Harney

Gina Harney is the blogger behind the healthy lifestyle brand, The Fitnessista, which reaches millions of viewers all over the world. She’s been featured on Greatist, Forbes, Buzzfeed, Shape, Fitness Magazine, and Well + Good. She’s the author of “HIIT It!” and the voice behind the Healthy In Real Life podcast. She lives in Tucson, Arizona.

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