Always thinking to skip your workout?
Find out when to go for it and when to give your exercise routine a miss
It is time to work out, but something is stopping you – maybe you feel a cold coming on, or you have a full stomach, or you simply do not feel like it. But are any of these reasons a valid excuse to take the day off from your workout or should you lace up your sneakers anyway?
We asked the experts which situations call for a day off, and when it is acceptable to carry on with your fitness plans.
IF YOU HAVE A COLD Depends…
“If you have a stuffed-up nose and are only just sneezing, go ahead and work out – it will most likely help to clear the congestion,” says strength and conditioning coach Rob Jackson.
However, avoid intense workouts – that means no High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or long periods of cardio. Sessions that go for over 90 minutes actually suppress immunity, as do back-to-back daily HIIT sessions.
“Ideally, you should walk out of your workout session feeling like you have got plenty more to give,” says Rob.
If your symptoms are below the neck as well – for example, a cough or body aches from a fever – then your immune system is in overdrive and working really hard. That means you should skip the session and focus on rest and recovery.
YOU ONLY ATE AN HOUR AGO Go for it…
“Unless the meal you just ate was a large meal or one heavy in fat or protein that takes longer to digest, it should not hinder your workout,” says exercise physiologist Jennifer Smallridge. “In fact, light exercise like a walk or a bike ride can actually aid digestion.”
Be mindful that working out too hard after eating can cause blood to be diverted away from the gastrointestinal tract and into the muscles, which can cause a cramp.
“Use the talk test,” says Jennifer. “If you can hold a conversation comfortably while working out, that is a good level of intensity.”
Also avoid heavy strength training for around two hours after eating. This increases pressure in the abdomen and you might feel a bit sick doing this on a full stomach.
YOU ARE NOT ENJOYING WHAT YOU ARE DOING RIGHT NOW Skip it…
Spend time answering some questions to help find a workout you will love instead.
“You need to find the routine that pushes your delight buttons,” says mind, body and soul coach Kathy Yvanovich.
Ask yourself what is going to make you happy about your workout – do you love being around other people or prefer to exercise solo? Do fresh air, nature and even a bit of rain make your heart sing – or do you prefer to be inside? Do you like to compete with yourself or others?
“Look around to find the workout that offers those things,” says Kathy.
If you are competitive and like exercising with people while being outside, try a sport like tennis, for example. If you want to work out with others but hate pressure and bad weather, sign up for a fun class like Zumba instead.
YOU ARE ON MEDICATION Go, but with advice…
Some drugs do not mix well with exercise. Those with diabetes may need to adjust their insulin-dose as exercise alters glucose levels – and, in the longer term, makes the body more sensitive to insulin, which is a good thing. The antibiotic ciprofloxacin (prescribed for problems like urinary tract infections or food poisoning) may weaken tendons, which could be damaged if you are doing high-impact work or lifting weights.
Beware of ibuprofen if you are training hard. Intense exercise temporarily increases permeability of the gut lining – and ibuprofen increases this effect. This may affect nutrient absorption or increase risk of food poisoning for a few hours.
If you are on a new drug, check with a pharmacist about any exercise interactions.
IF YOU ARE HURT FROM YESTERDAY’S SESSION Depends…
First, assess your pain. “If it is a dull ache when you move or stretch, chances are, it is just muscle soreness caused by a previous workout. This is normal after training, particularly if you have done something new. Further movement may actually help,” says Rob. However, if your pain feels more like a sharp stab than achy or if it is there even when you are not moving a muscle, that may indicate an injury and you need to rest that area. If it does not clear up after a few days, see a doctor or physiotherapist for advice.
YOU ARE TIRED Depends…
Exercise energises the body and mind so it is normally a good idea to get on with doing your workout if you are just feeling a bit low on energy.
“A nice trick is to promise yourself you will work out for 10 minutes and if you are still tired at that point, you can stop. Most of the time, you won’t,” says Jennifer.
However, if you feel more tired than you normally would at that time of the day or you suspect your body might be fighting something off, take some down time. Go again when you feel more energised.
YOU WILL STRESS OUT IF YOU DO NOT GO Skip it…
“Feeling overly guilty or anxious about exercise – for example, stressing because you cannot work out due to an injury or because a social or work engagement interferes with your normal session – can be a sign of an unhealthy relationship with exercise,” says Dr Joann Lukins from Peak Performance Psychology.
This can occur when we get hooked on the buzz from a workout, or associate it with weight or body image issues. If this is the case, taking a break is one of the best things you can do.
Consider speaking to a psychologist or another mental health professional about how to rebalance your relationship with exercise.
YOU SIMPLY DO NOT WANT TO Go for it…
“Often, the thought of exercise itself is what prohibits people from exercising. Once you actually get moving, you enjoy it,” says Dr Joann. She says that a lot of time, we do not want to do a workout because we are focusing our thoughts on “what” – what you have to do to get there, what you could be doing instead.
“Spend some time focusing on the ‘why’ – why do you want to exercise?” she says. “Because it keeps you healthy, because you will live longer, because it makes you feel good. Whatever your reason is, the ‘why’ thoughts are usually far more motivating.”
YOU ONLY HAVE 20 MINUTES Go for it…
“Why miss an opportunity to train just because time is short? You can train effectively in short bursts if you use higher intensity,” says Rob. For best results in a short time, stick to exercises that work major muscles and use whole body movements – rather than moves like bicep curls that work small areas.
“My favourite speedy routine is a short warm-up followed by a circuit of 10 burpees, five push-ups, 10 box jumps, five TRX rows and 10 medicine ball slams. Do as many circuits of this as you can in five minutes, and take a one-minute break. Repeat the circuit twice more, then cool down.”