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Taking A Day Off | When To Skip Your Workout

The human body is specifically regulated to maintain relatively stable internal physiological conditions, otherwise known as homeostasis. When these processes become unstable or imbalanced, the body works hard to maintain homeostasis, compensating for the specific stressor. If the stressor continues the body responds by adapting and as a result, improves its ability to operate at a higher level. One such stressor that brings about adaptation and an improvement in the ability to perform work is physical training.

To ensure the adaptation process is successful a suitable duration of minimal or no physical activity is required.

To ensure the adaptation process is successful a suitable duration of minimal or no physical activity is required. This time frame is very individual and can be influenced by a number of factors. Besides the intensity and duration of the training session, also other lifestyle factors such as nutrition, stress and sleep can influence the recovery time.

Skipping a workout

In addition, it is known that people with a high fitness level generally need less time to recover from exercises compared to people with a low fitness level. Insufficient recovery has a negative effect on how well the body adapts to the stresses of training, thus affecting performance levels and overall health. This imbalance between recovery and training is known as UPS (Unexplained Underperformance Syndrome) or ‘overtraining’.

Skipping a workout isn’t the end of the world

We’ve all missed training sessions, even Olympic Champions.

Skipping a workout isn’t the end of the world and with busy work and personal lives it’s important to maintain a healthy balance. If the missed session falls into the category of less than perfect weather, or movie marathon on the sofa, these may be less justifiable. On the other hand however, there are definitely times when missing a training session is wise and should definitely be encouraged.

False adage: ‘No pain no gain’

Pushing yourself during certain sessions in training is important to progress, however the notion of ‘no pain no gain’ should not be encouraged by coaches or athletes, as there is very rarely anything to gain from training through fatigue, injury or illness.

Continued fatigue, together with poor performance, may be a sign of overtraining, but may also be coupled with symptoms including poor concentration, loss of motivation to train, inability to optimally recover, increased susceptibility to injury, reduced appetite and body weight, broken sleep, excessive sweating and a change in habitual resting heart rate by 5–10 BPM.

Missing workouts when injured is critical for recovery and may sound obvious, but is all too often ignored when trying to maintain fitness and not fall behind in your training plan.

Missing workouts when injured is critical for recovery and may sound obvious, but is all too often ignored when trying to maintain fitness and not fall behind in your training plan.

Depending on the type and severity of the injury it may be possible to continue another form of physical activity while the injury recovers, but no exercise should inhibit recuperation and your body’s ability to recover quickly and effectively – always seek advice from a medical professional.

An injury can also be a sign of a problem, imbalance or instability in another area of your training, which highlights the need to address that issue. So while frustrating, view the injury as a positive chance to get better and come back stronger and more efficient.

When to skip your workout: Illness

Illness is another area where it is often falsely considered acceptable to simply train through it rather than give your body a chance to get better. While research has shown that regular exercise boosts the immune system, people who are already sick should approach exercise cautiously during their illness.

Certain tell-tale signs should be used to influence the correct course of action. If symptoms are above the neck, such as a runny nose, sneezing or a sore throat, it’s probably OK to continue with your workout.

If symptoms are below the neck, such as chest or stomach problems, aching or fever it is advised to avoid working out. It is also worth noting that acute prolonged exercise bouts and periods of intensified training are followed by a temporary increase in the risk of infection. So, not only will taking a break from training allow your body to recover, but your training partners will definitely thank you for it!

The American College of Sports Medicine also recommends gradually easing back into exercise after at least two weeks of rest if you’ve had a more serious bout of cold or flu.

Lack of sleep May have negative consequences

Negative effects on health as well as a weakness in immune system can also be caused by a consistent lack of sleep.

If you constantly get less sleep than you need, you may be at higher risk of chronic health issues and experience negative effects on fitness, body composition, cognitive function and mental wellbeing. Not only this, but sleep plays a huge role in recovering from training.

If consistently achieving optimal sleep is a real problem, give your workout a miss and replace it with some much needed rest. This will allow you to re-charge and therefore perform your next training session full of energy, alert and focussed, which will ultimately mean you get the most out of the session and continue to progress towards your goal.

Consistency is key

Consistency is key when it comes to training and performance. However, the clever athlete will know to look out for and recognize the signs of chronic fatigue and overtraining and know to incorporate suitable rest and recovery.

Train hard, but also smart. Listen to your body and your performance on race day will thank you for it.

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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.

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