When is it okay to skip your work out?

You’d think exercise was guaranteed to make you feel better, but not always.

It’s time for your workout, but there’s something stopping you – maybe it’s the beginnings of a cold, a full stomach or simply not feeling like it. But are any of these a valid excuse to take the day off or should you lace up your trainers anyway?
We asked the experts which situations legitimately justify taking a day off, and when it’s okay to carry on with your fitness plans as usual.
If you hurt from yesterday’s session: Depends
“If it’s a dull ache when you move or stretch, chances are it’s just muscle soreness caused by a previous workout.
This is normal after training, particularly if you’ve done something new, and further movement may help,” says Jackson.
If, however, your pain is more sharp or stabbing, or if it’s there even when you’re not moving, that may relate to an injury and you need to rest that area. If it doesn’t clear up after a few days, see a GP or physio for advice.
You’re on medication: Go, but with advice
Some drugs don’t mix well with exercise.
Diabetics 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 (given for issues like urinary tract infections or food poisoning) may weaken tendons, which could be damaged if you’re doing high-impact work or lifting heavy weights.
Also beware of ibuprofen if you’re training hard.
Intense exercise temporarily increases permeability of the gut lining, and ibuprofen increases this effect.
This may affect nutrient absorption or increase the risk of food poisoning for a few hours. If you’re on a new drug, ask a pharmacist if it’s okay to exercise.
If you have a cold: Depends
“If the symptoms are just sneezing and a stuffed-up nose, it’s okay to work out and it will probably clear the congestion,” says strength and conditioning coach Rob Jackson.
However, avoid intense exercise; no HIIT or long periods of cardio.
Sessions of more than 90 minutes actually suppress immunity, as do back-to-back daily HIIT sessions, and right now you need your system firing on all cylinders.
“Ideally you should walk out of your session feeling like you have plenty more to give,” says Jackson.
If your symptoms are below the neck too – eg, a cough or aches from a fever – then Jackson says you should skip today’s session and focus on rest and recovery.
You’re tired: Depends
Exercise generally energises body and mind so it’s usually a good idea to work out if you’re just feeling a bit low on energy.
“A nice trick is to promise yourself you’ll work out for 10 minutes and if you’re still tired at that point you can stop.
Most of the time you won’t,” says exercise physiologist Jennifer Smallridge.
But if you feel more tired than you normally would at that time of day or you suspect your body might be fighting something off, skip the session. Go again when you feel more energised.
Words: Helen Foster
For more workout wisdom check out our July issue.
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