If you’re trying to stick to a fitness plan, you know the hardest part about working out is actually getting yourself to the gym. When it’s time to head to your sweat destination of choice, it’s not uncommon or hard to come up with any number of reasons why you can’t go. But there are actual legit situations (AKA not when your couch is calling) where skipping a workout can be good for you and even better than pushing through that spin class; after all, the gym will always be there tomorrow. We chatted with Brian Zehetner, Planet Fitness’s Director of Health & Fitness on when you shouldn’t feel guilty about missing a sweat sesh.

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1. You’re feeling under the weather. It’s really common to wonder if you should go to the gym when you’re feeling sick, and according to Zehetner, the answer is mostly simple. “If you’re not feeling 100 percent, but your illness is limited to a simple head cold, you’re probably fine to get in a modest workout. I call this the ‘above the neck, what the heck’ rule. However, if you have a fever, body aches, or stomach issues, you might want to park it on the couch and stay home.” Seems pretty simple to us! “Despite these general guidelines,” he adds, “I’ll offer my own two cents: if I’m healthy and working out, I’d prefer to do so next to those that aren’t sneezing and coughing the entire time. Therefore, I would prefer that you stay home!” Fair enough.

2. Something hurts, like a lot. Getting motivated to sweat it out when you’re sore can be really tough, right? “If you’re experiencing some soreness,” says Zehetner, “you can still work out, as long as you’ve given those muscles the appropriate recovery time. However, if the soreness is particularly bothersome and you struggle to move with the same efficiency, then take an extra day or two off. The ability to work out or not is pretty subjective, so go with your gut. And if you experience any sharp, stabbing pains, you should absolutely avoid the gym — this is much more likely to be an injury versus the typical soreness associated with a hard workout.” Another sign you might be injured? If you have pain on one side and not the other, something might be up that warrants a rest day.

3. You haven’t taken a break from working out in awhile. If you’ve been hitting the gym five days a week for the past few months, you may want to take some time off. “It may be beneficial to take a week or two off if you’re feeling burned out,” suggests Zehetner. “This is particularly true if you’re a die-hard exerciser. Even the most avid gym-goers need some time away to recuperate and get that fire back!” It makes sense that hitting pause on your workout plans for one to two weeks would leave you feeling ready to get back at it like the badass you are.


4. You just ate a TON or you haven’t eaten at all yet. You may wonder if it’s bad to work out on an empty stomach or after a large meal, but Zehetner says neither are total deal breakers, but could have some not-so-nice effects depending on how your body responds. You can certainly work out if you haven’t eaten beforehand, but depending on how long it’s been since your last meal or snack, you may find that your energy level, and therefore your intensity level, will suffer as a result. If the opposite is true and you’ve eaten a large meal prior to your workout, you may end up feeling sluggish.” Blerg. “The reasoning behind this is pretty simple: When you consume food, a good portion of your blood volume gets shunted to your GI tract to help the digestive process along. If you decide to start exercising right away, that same blood gets shunted back to your extremities to help with muscular contractions and plenty else. This slows the digestive process greatly and leaves you with a bloated feeling at best and potentially some serious stomach upset at worst. In the end, meal timing is critical.” If you’re not sure what’s ideal to eat before and after your workout, we’ve got you covered.

5. You haven’t taken a rest day this week. The number of workouts you should do each week varies widely, and “it’s difficult to pinpoint the maximum number of workouts that an individual should engage in each week,” says Zehetner, adding, “I can say confidently that you should take at least one day off. I can also assure you that many people engaged in serious training (for a particular event perhaps) do a few two-a-day workouts during the week. Again, this is very individualized, so talk to a trainer to get a more personalized recommendation.” As always, if you feel like you’re doing too much, you should definitely take a well-deserved day off.

How do you decide whether or not to skip your workout? Let us know @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)