5 Reasons to Skip a Workout, According to a Fitness Expert
MostAmericans suffer from a serious exercise deficiency and therefore can illafford to skip a workout. But, this doesn’t mean you should spend every day atthe gym either.
Nomatter what your fitness level, everyone needs to give their body time torecover between workouts, especially if you engage in high-intensity intervaltraining (HIIT).
Inthe case of HIIT, it’s recommended that you do only two or three sessions perweek, and on your “off” days you may engage in another form of gentlerexercise, like yoga, flexibility training or stretching.
Spacing your workouts appropriately helps you get the mostbenefits without over-stressing your body, but you generally want to avoidskipping too many of your “on” days. That being said, there are certain instanceswhen it may make sense for you to skip your workout entirely.1
5 Scenarios When Skipping YourWorkout Makes Sense
One of the benefits of being fit is that you can take timeoff from exercise and use the “reserves” that you have built up during yourtime off. If done infrequently, skipping a workout is unlikely to negativelyaffect your overall fitness level, and in the cases that follow is probablymore beneficial than not.
1.You’re Sick “Below Your Neck”
If you have a simple cold and youfeel up to it, exercise can actually be beneficial. Increasing your bodytemperature enough to break a sweat may even help you to kill off invadingviruses (it’s sort of like a do-it-yourself fever). Use common sense, though.
If you’re exhausted and feeling veryill, the stress exercise puts on your body may end up suppressing your immunesystem and impeding your healing process. At the very least, you’ll want totake your workout level down a notch or two if you’re fighting off an illness.
High-intensityexercise should be avoided when you’re sick, because any kind of intenseexercise boosts production of cortisol, a stress hormone that inhibits theactivity of natural killer cells — a type of white blood cell that attacks andrids your body of viral agents.
And if you have a fever or symptoms“below your neck,” like those below, you’re probably better off resting insteadof exercising:
- Coughing or chest congestion
- Widespread body and muscle aches
- Vomiting, upset stomach and/orstomach cramps
2. You’re Injured
Regularexercise can help you to prevent manyinjuries, however you’ll want to avoid exercising an injured area of yourbody. If you have a shoulder injury, you may still be able to work out yourlower body (or vice versa), so long as you don’t aggravate the injured area.
You should focus on healing and definitely avoid any activitiesthat cause pain at the injury site.
Oftentimes, you may still be able to engage in gentle exercises,such as swimming, water aerobics and some types of yoga, even if you areinjured. In fact, it might be beneficial. Listen to your body and be carefulnot to overdo it.
3. You’re Exhausted
If you’ve had a poor night’s sleep, you may be better off sleepingin than getting up early for your morning workout.
Like exercise, sleep is also essential for your health, and yougenerally don’t want to sacrifice one for the other. It’s difficult to catch upon sleep once you’re sleep-deprived, so make sleep a top priority.
Keep in mind, however, that exercise is important too. If you havea hard time waking for early-morning workouts, try exercising in themid-morning or afternoon if your schedule allows it.
You can even exercise in the evening, if you like. Some peoplefind late-night exercise to be beneficial for sleep. Generally, exercise should leave you feelingenergized and invigorated.
If you find your workouts typically leave you feeling exhaustedinstead of energized, this is a sign that you may be exercising too much and need to take more timefor recovery.
4. Your Body Is Very Sore
Delayedonset muscle soreness (DOMS), or the musclesoreness you’ve experienced one to two days after exercise, is caused byinflammation stemming from microscopic tears in your muscle fibers.
Morespecifically, these are microtears between your muscles and their surroundingtissues. This most often occurs when you start a new exercise program, changeit in some way, or resume exercising after a period of inactivity.
Thesedamaged muscles release chemical irritants that trigger mild inflammation,which awakens your pain receptors. Thistemporary discomfort is a natural part of your body’s natural muscle-rebuildingprocess, and is generally not an indicator that you need to skip a workout.
Many people, in their zeal forbeginning a new exercise regimen, overdo it and become extremely sore. In this case, if your muscles arevery sore you’ll want to take ample time for those muscles to fully recoverbefore training them again — which may be much as five to seven days.
5. Your Schedule IsJam-Packed
On days when you’re completely overextended, a lengthy trip to thegym may not be in the cards. This doesn’t mean you should skip your workoutentirely, though. Many HIIT workouts can be done in just a few minutes time.
Peak Fitness HIIT takes 20 minutes to compete a workout (see thedetails below), but you can also get an effective workoutdone in seven minutes or even four minutes (ironically, the four-minute Tabata protocol is most challenging ofall).
The point is, gone are the days whengoing to the gym needs to take you two hours. In fact, you don’t even have togo to the gym at all if you don’t want to or don’t have the time. Some of the bestworkouts can be done in 20 minutes or less, right in your own living room.
What Happens When You Skip TooMany Workouts?
Skippingan occasional workout is nothing to fret over. But if skipping workouts becomesa habit your body and your fitness level will suffer, with negative changesoccurring faster than you might think. A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology suggested that skipping workouts forjust two weeks may significantly reduce your cardiovascular fitness, leanmuscle mass and insulin sensitivity.2
Dr.James Ting, a board-certified sports medicinephysician with the Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Irvine, California told CNN itmay take two months or more to completely fall out of shape if you stopexercising.3
However,there are varying opinions on the matter. Many experts agree that about twoweeks is a pretty standard number after which your body will start to fall outof shape with no exercise. However, coach Pete Magill, six-time mastersnational cross-country champion, told Shape you can lose up to 50 percent ofyour fitness gains in a singleweek of inactivity.4
Cardiovascular Fitness May Be Affected First
Whenyou skip too many workouts, the strength of your heart and lungs will fadefirst. One study found that after just 12 days without exercise, VO2 max, a measure of cardiovascular endurance, dropped by 7 percent whileblood enzymes associated with endurance performance dropped by 50 percent.5
Generallyspeaking, if you’re very fit to begin with your body will remain in a fitterstate longer than someone who’s not fit, even as your workouts cease. Theolder you get, however, the faster your muscles atrophy if you’re not regularlyengaging in appropriate exercise. In addition, it will take you longer to gainit back. When comparing 20 to 30-year-olds with 65 to 75-year-olds, the oldergroup lost strength nearly twice as fast during six months of inactivity.6
If you need to cut back, incorporating some form ofhigh-intensity exercise on a weekly basis seems to improve your chances ofmaintaining your conditioning, even if you can’t resume your full fitnessroutine for several months. In order to do this successfully, you need toexercise at about 70 percent of your VO2 max at least once per week, accordingto sports medicine expert Elizabeth Quinn.7
VO2 max (also known as maximal oxygen intake) is defined asthe maximum volume of oxygen you can utilize in one minute of maximal orexhaustive exercise.8
Make Your Workouts Fun toResist Skipping
Ifyou find you’re tempted to skip workouts often,it could be because you’re not picking the right types of exercise for you. Noone wants to stick with an exercise program they dread, so choose activitiesyou enjoy. Not surprisingly, research has shown that enjoyment is oneof the strongest predictors of long-term exercise maintenance.9
According to Michelle Segar, Ph.D., author of the book “No Sweat: How the Simple Scienceof Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness,” “Our brains are hardwired to respond to immediate gratification, and todo what makes us feel good. This is one of the reasons we tend to give up onchore-like workouts.”
Further, honingin on the more immediate rewards of exercise, such as feeling refreshed andable to think more clearly right there and then, are more potent motivatorsthan “avoiding future heart disease” or “losing 10 pounds.”
It also helpsto make exercise into a habit.The video above shows ways you can actually “trick” yourself into exercising,although research suggests consistent exercisers have made exercise a habittriggered by a cue, such as hearing the morning alarm and heading for the gymfirst thing in the morning without even thinking about it.10 This kind of habit is referred to as “an instigation habit,” and it was foundto provide people with the most consistent results.
In fact, thestrength of a person’s instigation habit was the only factor able to predict a person’s abilityto maintain an exercise regimen over the long-term. So for a simple tip to helpmake exercise a life-long habit, decide what your trigger cue will be. It couldbe your morning alarm clock, your lunch break, or even feeling stressed — andthen just follow through by goingto the gym (or wherever you do your exercise) when the cue istriggered.
The idea is tohinge the habit around a recurring cue so that you get started on your workoutwithout actually having to consciously decide to do so each time (which then gives you opportunity to talk yourself out ofit).