You might be mid training plan and feel like you have to get that long run in no matter what. Perhaps this is the day for your 120 km bike ride on the way to your century. But sometimes you should skip it no matter what. However, other times you might really want to skip it and you’ll be able to find all excuses for that. So when should you skip out a workout and when should you push through? I’ve decided it up into internal and external factors, plus some ways you can sneak it in anyway.
Weather: This is the one that comes to mind first right? It’s too cold or hot, raining or snowing dark or slippery right? This one mostly applies to outdoor exercisers but the weather might be too bad to go to the gym too. You can go for a run in almost any weather with the right gear and it seems like it’s going to be terrible every time. It’s like we forget the ‘that wasn’t that bad’ feeling the very moment we’re done. The coldest I’ve ever gone for a run is -23 degrees Celsius (-10 f) with the windchill, and you know what it wasn’t that bad! I find I really want to be back in less than an hour and one time my water bottle froze and burst, but you can still get out there. Plus people will think you’re super tough.
When the visibility sucks you need to skip it. Thick fog or driving snow means your couch surfing that day. If drivers can’t see AT LEAST 100 m the less skilled ones start to leave their lanes. At a certain point no amount of lights and reflectors is enough. Also skip it if the sidewalks are so slippery you’re almost guaranteed a fall. In the driving rain you might not have to stay home though just make sure your electronics have protection. The old saying goes when thunder rolls go indoors and that couldn’t be more true. Keep in mind though you don’t want to get caught out in it if lightning is forecasted because you are too far away from home. Put your miles in back and forth in front you your start location so you can bail if you need to. If you’re a biker slippery conditions really ought to keep you in!
When you ought not to be out: There are certain times and certain conditions when being out in the world is not a great idea. Slippery roads, weather warnings and other ‘newsworthy events’ should keep you indoors or even at home. If certain things are going down outside you should be inside. It can make you feel super tough to be out there when literally no one else is and light snow or a driving rain is one thing but other things should keep you indoors. If the police are telling people to stay indoors and off the roads, LISTEN! Like tonight for example we hare having the worst storm anyone of us can remember, but it’s also 9 degrees in January. The fact that I was home in daylight and technically could have run wasn’t lost on me. Sure the wind warning, rain warning and storm surge warning would have meant I got saltier than usual in the waves crashing over the road. But if someone saw me they might think I was in trouble or danger and that would take time from first responders and someone who might need it. Also it puts people in danger checking on stupid you. Other times no one is going to explicitly tell you to stay home but your common sense ought to kick in. This past year I was tutoring on a street and one of the homes had a smallish kitchen fire. If there is even the slightest chance you’ll be in the way or pull valuable attention needed elsewhere away for even a moment don’t go. That includes running or cycling by. If your at a shore front or pool working out and something bad happens just get out and let the attention be directed where it needs to be. If you live one the very next street over from a warning area to shelter in place just make everyone’s jobs easier and stay home.
When you ought to be somewhere else: This can actually be a sign you are taking exercise too far crossing into that rare addicted to exercise territory. If you are skipping stuff or leaving early to things your really out to be a part of, you should skip your workout. It’s true that marathon training means your social life is going to SUFFER but… there are certain times I give you permission to skip a long run. Don’t skip out on a birthday party, family supper or kid’s recital to get a run in. Sometimes at the last minute something happens that you shouldn’t skip and that’s called life. This past week I had a pretty serious (everyone was unhurt) car accident in the afternoon. Had honey informed me after supper that he was off for a bike ride that would have been the wrong choice. Also I would assume he had been abducted by aliens since the only way he goes for bike rides with me is if I tell him I have sushi, doritos and cold near beer in my backpack and then ride away. Similarly had I skipped out on a run that night, even though I really wanted to, that wouldn’t have been fair since we had family visiting including one VERY rambunctious (destructive, energetic and determined) four year old.
You’re too tiered or sore: How tiered or sore you ask, really damn tiered or sore! In training for certain events like a full (or for some 1/2) marathon or greater or and olympic or greater triathlon you are literally going to feel this way for months at a time! You are upping your intensities to crazy levels week after week after week. You should expect that you will feel like you’ve been run over by a truck about 40% of the time. However if you’re not in training there is always tomorrow. Perhaps you got no sleep for two nights in a row, but a good run is like mainlining a whole pot of coffee, or you overdid it twice earlier this week and got roped into that advanced yoga class then skip it. If you did something extra you can point to and go, “oh that’s why”, and you’re not in training pick another day, don’t feel guilty and eat some ice cream!
Where this judgement call is harder is when you are in training. The training plan itself can be kicking your but and that can be reason enough to skip. In fact recovery workouts were designed for just that thing. The problem is if you do those workouts start to pile up. Assuming you’re not doing a bare minimum plan skipping a workout is totally okay. In fact pushing through when you really are too sore or tiered puts you at risk for overuse injuries potentially derailing the whole plan. One good way to check if your really are too far gone is your resting heart rate. Keep track of it, your watch might do it for you. If your resting heart rate is creeping up that’s about the only objective measure that says injury is around the corner. But the above holds true as well say you promised to pick at that 5 chord of wood and stack a little each week while you were training but you didn’t. Now imagine you’ve dropped the ball and there’s a hurricane in the forecast or maybe you really dropped the ball and it’s a snowstorm. You have no choice but to stack it all at once now so you should definitely take it easy this week!
If you decide that it’s all too much and you want to skip look at your whole week and dial it back, you can skip recovery runs and swap them out for short walks instead just try to keep your long run (workout) first and your speed workout for the week if you can. Truth be told I’ll usually turn my speed workout into a fartlek since it’s fun, if I’m feeling ambitious or just make it a regular run if I’m not. I just find speed work kicks my but the most so it can be turned into a regular run since like you know, I’m DEFINITELY not going to win.
You’re sick: Not a sniffle or a throat tickle but legitimately sick. I know so many people tell you there is no reason to skip a workout unless you are on deaths door or a doctor specifically told you that you can’t go to spin class this Tuesday at 7. For heaven’s sake if a doctor told you not to exercise, LISTEN! While maybe you technically can exercise and live trough it there’s a lot of good reasons you shouldn’t. I’m a biologist by training and there is a lot of bad information out there, you’re body only heals at night, starve a fever, feed a cold, fresh air cures all and getting cold will give you a cold. The truth of the matter is your body will be able to heal itself in most conditions but it sends you signals to help you get it there. The reason being sick makes you tiered is because rest does your immune system a world of good and makes you get better sooner. The reason you get a fever is to slow down the replication of bacteria and give your immune system a head start. You might not be hungry because digestion can take resources away from you immune system and eating can disrupt the healing going on in certain areas like your throat. If you feel like a workout will do you a world of good, do it. If Netflix and two quilts sounds like the right choice, do it. Either way up your fluids! Don’t stress about what your missing you’ll be out there again soon! If you do go give yourself permission to quit early, like really early if you’re not feeling it.
You’re dealing with an injury: I know, I know you’ve heard it before sit your but on the couch when your injured or crosstrain. Either works just do the hell out of those physio exercises!
Remember working out and being fit is only a part of you living your best life not the whole thing! Sometimes other things come up and the right choice is to skip a workout. What are the signs your body gives you that mean it’s definitely time for a day off?