No pain, no gain. Just do it. Go hard or go home.
In spite of the rise in popularity of yoga and other more restorative forms of movement, many of us still take a very intense, all-out approach to exercise. And, hey, there’s nothing wrong with training hard and pushing your limits—as long as you’re training smart. What that means: Even the most disciplined, fit gym-goers can’t get after it every single day.
In fact, some days you’re truly better off skipping your sweat. Here, fitness pros break down six scenarios in which you definitely shouldn’t work out.
1. When You Need To Double Up On Caffeine To Get Through It
Though there’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of the extra oomph a good pre-workout supplement gives your workout performance, think twice if chugging a double dose of that C4 is the only way you see yourself surviving the gym.
“If you don’t have a stable source of energy and completely rely on caffeine before a workout, you’ll likely just create additional stress by exercising,” says Debra Atkinson, M.S., C.S.C.S., M.E.S., strength and conditioning coach and founder of Flipping 50.
Read More: 5 Ways Stress Can Impact Your Health
According to Atkinson, continuing to stimulate your body and push through workouts when you feel flat-out exhausted contributes to adrenal issues, in which your body’s production of stress hormones like cortisol falls out of balance.
2. When You’re Too Sore To Move Without Wincing
Some soreness is totally normal—and okay to push through—throughout your workouts. However, wince-inducing soreness—or soreness that lasts unusually long—warrants a rest day.
“If your whole body is unbearably sore, skip your gym session,” says trainer and nutrition coach Tim Liu, C.S.C.S., Pn2. “Instead, go for something more restorative such as a yoga class or a bit of foam rolling to get some blood flowing.” The extra blood flow promotes recovery, while the lower intensity ensures you don’t further insult your already insulted muscle fibers.
According to Dr. Sara Mikulsky, D.P.T., F.N.S., C.E.A.S., owner of Wellness Physical Therapy, soreness that persists for more than three days also warrants a day off from tough workouts. (This indicates your muscles and other connective tissues have sustained more serious damage.)
“At this point, I advise my clients to hold off on working out beyond some light stretching and gentle range-of-motion exercises,” Mikulsky says.
3. When You Think You Might Be Injured
Soreness aside, persistent aches and pains (knee and lower-back pain are two common examples) may also justify taking time off of the gym.
“If you have been dealing with an ache or pain for more than four weeks, it’s time to consult with a physical therapist,” says physical therapist and coach Dr. Adeeb Khalfe, P.T., D.P.T., C.S.C.S. “By training through pain, you are likely making things worse, not better.”
Instead of popping yet another NSAID and pushing yourself to work out, make an appointment with an expert. Otherwise, a more serious injury may leave you out of commission for much longer than a day or two.
4. When You’re Sick With Below-The-Neck Symptoms
In certain cases, breaking a sweat while under the weather is a-okay. “Symptoms like a runny nose, sneezing, or mild cough or sore throat don’t have to prevent you from hitting the gym,” says coach Jeremy Kring, M.S., C.S.C.S. Typically, these symptoms just indicate a cold or allergies, which won’t be worsened by exercise.
However, if you’re experiencing major digestive issues like diarrhea or severe coughing, or have a fever, body aches, or chills, do yourself (and your fellow exercisers) a favor and stay home, Kring says.
Not only can a workout out worsen your condition, but these symptoms often indicate a virus or bacterial infection, which you can easily spread to others—even if you do wipe down your gym equipment, says Khalfe.
5. When The Thought Of Working Out Makes You Want To Cry
Not everyone wakes up motivated to hit the gym every single day. For the most part, though, once you’re all laced up and have your pump-up playlist on blast, you settle into your groove.
Still, if you feel straight-up dread about hitting the gym, do. not. go. “Working out should be something you truly enjoying doing,” says personal trainer Chris Higgins, C.P.T. “If you are dreading your routine, you shouldn’t work out.”
“In the long run, it’s much more sustainable to work out only when you feel like it, since you’ll associate fitness with positive feelings,” he explains. If exercise feels like a torturous burden, consider it a sign that you need a day off, need to reduce your number of weekly workouts, or need to switch up your routine to something you’d enjoy more.
6. When You’re Running On Less Than Six Hours Of Sleep
Though the pros and cons of skipping your workout to get more sleep depend on your specific circumstances, many experts recommend you err on the side of rest.
“If you’ve gotten less than six hours of sleep, your body can’t recover as quickly or efficiently,” says Erin Motz, C.P.T., personal trainer and co-founder of Bad Yogi. “Going to the gym just puts you in a bigger energy deficit.”
In fact, according to 2015 research published in Sports Medicine, poor sleep’s impact on the nervous system can trigger or exacerbate symptoms of overtraining syndrome, a state in which athletes experience changes in mood, exercise performance, and general well-being. The bottom line: If it means sacrificing recovery, you shouldn’t work out.
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