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Skipping a workout might be taboo in your book. Yet exercising 365 days a year isn’t only a herculean task, but it’s also impossible to maintain if you want to live your life. And your body does need a break every now and then.
Just to be clear: We’re not advocating that you start looking for excuses not to do your workout. But there are times when it’s totally acceptable to miss a workout. Here are six of them:
1. You’re battling below-the-neck symptoms of sickness.
Regular exercise does help build a strong immune system, but proceed with caution when you’re sick, especially if your symptoms are below your neck. “The rule of thumb for taking time off when sick has long been to follow the above-and-below-the-neck rule,” says Catherine Yeckel, MS, Ph.D., exercise physiologist and assistant professor of clinical public health at Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Connecticut.
If your symptoms are a stuffy nose and head and sneezing, working out is OK and may even help you feel better because the hormones released with exercise can clear the head a bit. Yet when symptoms are below the neck — think sore throat, coughing, tightness in the chest, fever and stomachache — you’re better off to let your body rest. Can’t decide where you fall on this spectrum? “When in doubt, sit it out,” she adds.
2. You’re dealing with an injury.
Every injury is unique, but exercising through an injury could prolong the healing process or worsen the injury, says Lauren Korzan, MA, ACSM-certified professional and regional manager for Aquila in Atlanta. What’s more, you could even compensate for your injury, which could lead to injuries in other parts of your body. Of course, this depends on the injury, and you may be able to modify your activity or choose exercises that don’t involve the injured area. But if you can’t avoid the injured area while exercising or modify your movements, skipping a workout is best.
3. You’re seriously hung over.
Had a little too much fun last night? Permission granted to skip that workout. “Alcohol not only causes dehydration, but it’s also a depressant that slows reaction time and impairs coordination,” Yeckel says.
Translation? You’re more likely to sustain an injury that takes you away from your training. If you do feel like exercising, make sure you hydrate before, during and after your workout and choose lower-intensity exercises, like walking or yoga, so as not to worsen headaches and GI distress, Korzan says.
4. Bedtime is looming.
If you’ve had such a busy day that it’s almost bedtime and you still haven’t logged your workout, you have permission to hit the hay versus the gym. “Sleep is important for muscle repair, weight control and brain function, and although it’s OK to choose exercise over going to bed at a decent time every once in a while, don’t make it a habit,” Korzan says. Plus, the later you exercise, the harder it may be to fall asleep.
5. You’re feeling super stressed.
While there are individuals who thrive on stress and use it to train hard, most people don’t. It’s OK to give yourself an extra day off when your brain and body are feeling overwhelmed. “When the thought of your normal workout feels hard, back off and focus instead on getting fresh air and taking mindful walks to loosen up,” Yeckel says.
6. You haven’t taken a day off yet this week.
If you’re doing hard exercise (think heavy resistance training and high-intensity interval training), one recovery day a week is warranted, Korzan says. You can still be active on that recovery day, but keep the intensity light, focusing on things like walking, stretching or foam rolling.