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When is it okay to skip a workout?

When is it okay to skip a workout and when should you tough it out and stick to the plan? Having a training plan and sticking to it is the best way to stay in shape and achieve your goals in endurance sports. However, life and many other things can get in the way of sticking to the plan and sometimes it does make sense to skip a workout.

The main reason that many beginners or non athletes are not fit is that they are doing little or no training. Getting a training plan and executing the planned training session is the perfect solution for this. However, experienced endurance athletes often are too inflexible with their plan. They never skip a workout, which in some cases can lead to overtraining. The following guidelines can help you determine when it is and is not the right idea to skip a workout

Illness

Many people ask if it is okay to continue training when ill. The simple answer is no. There may be some cases where it is okay, but in general you should not workout when you are sick. You will not be able to perform at the level you should be and it could weaken your immune system Orr make your illness worse. The best thing to do when ill is to cancel the training you have planned, rest, get healthy and start training again when you are no longer ill.

Injury

Injuries are unfortunately a frequent occurrence for many endurance athletes. You should seek advice from a medical professional when possible, who may be able to give you advice on if and or what type of training you can do. In general, most injuries that endurance athletes experience are helped most by rest. So in general you should skip workouts when injured.

A common question is how do I know if I am injured or it is just normal training fatigue? It is always important to listen to your body. If you answer yes to any of the following questions, skip your training.

  • Does it hurt when you walk?
  • Has the pain lasted longer than 3 days?
  • Is the pain getting worse as the day progresses?
  • Does training exacerbate the pain?

Muscle soreness

Muscle soreness can be a source of pain that is normal in training and not an injury. Your muscles are sore because of the training you have recently done to your muscle fibers, and your body needs to repair them. This is the normal adaptation process and it is how you improve. In this case, you can generally train through muscle soreness.

Fatigue

Another common occurrence that is generally not a reason to skip a workout is fatigue. Fatigue in training is normal and you will often find that completing a workout actually gives you more energy overall. If there is some underlying health problem causing your fatigue or you have not slept well multiple days in a row, then fatigue may be a reason to skip a workout. But it is usually not a good reason. The following questions can help you determine if your fatigue is a valid reason to skip a workout:

  • Do you feel worse when you start training?
  • Have you been exhausted for more than 3 days?
  • Do you have inadequate sleep or nutrition?
  • Have you noticed an inexplicable decline in performance?

If it is just fatigue holding you back, a good tip is to start your training session and if 10 minutes in you still feel terrible you can stop. Often you notice that you feel better after some training.

Too busy

This is not a good reason to skip a workout. Training can help reduce stress and can even be helpful when you have a busy schedule. However, we all know that life is busy and this can happen. When you do skip a workout because something comes up and you are too busy, you should adapt your training based to make up for it. Sticking to a schedule is the best way to be consistent but flexibility and adaption are important characteristics of successful athletes.

How to adjust your training when you skip a workout

It depends on what kind of training session you have skipped and what the reasons are. For injury or illness, you will have to take some significant time off and build back up to full training. If you are just too busy or temporary fatigued, you might be able to adapt your training plan. This is why a dynamic training plan that considers your goals is the best option for success in training. For 2PEAK we also have an article on how to move or swap workouts.

Conclusion

Obviously you should try to remain as consistent as possible with your training. But skipping a workout can make sense. Illness and injury are the main reasons to skip a workout. If this is your reason, you should take enough time off until you are completely better, then slowly come back to training. If you have to skip a workout for another reason, it is ideal to have a dynamic training plan that can adjust your future workouts accordingly.