Fitness Articles

7 Times It's Okay to Skip a Workout

Stop Feeling Guilty When You Need a Break

Sometimes when we miss a workout, we know full well that we are just making "the dog ate my homework" types of excuses that wouldn't fool anyone—not even you! But then there are the times when we have a valid reason for skipping a workout. Sometimes life really does get in the way. Sometimes you really do have to skip a workout, and don't need the extra guilt for doing so. You shouldn't beat yourself up for missing a day or even a week (or more) of workouts if you have a legitimate reason to opt out. But you should check in with yourself so you know whether it's a valid excuse or whether you should be a little tougher on yourself. To help you tell the difference, we've come up with a list of times you can totally pass on a workout—without feeling an ounce of guilt.

7 Justifiable Reasons to Miss a Workout
1. You just had a baby.
Having a baby is maybe the most valid reason for not working out. It's typically recommended that you wait six weeks after giving birth before you work out and even longer if you've had a C-section. Your body is recovering from a major physical even and not only should you cut yourself some slack, but it can be dangerous to exercise too soon. Postpartum bleeding, called lochia, can continue well past the four-week mark, and overdoing anything can cause bleeding to increase. So heed your doctor's advice and enjoy the baby. Don't rush getting back into fitness until your body feels ready to take it on (and you have your doc's OK). There will be plenty of time to work out once you've recovered!

2. You're injured.
It's not only important to skip your workouts when you're injured, but it's a necessity if you want to feel better! Giving your injury a break is essential to letting it recuperate so you're able to get back on the horse again soon. Putting more strain on an injury is just a recipe to get sidelined for good. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist to find out what activities you can do with your injury. It might be possible to modify exercises so you can still work out, but there might be exercises to avoid, too. Being injured can be a positive in some ways, though. Nothing makes you miss working out more than not being able to do it, and this type of setback can also push you to discover new workouts you enjoy. If you can't run because of a knee injury, you might be able to try Pilates. If you have a stress fracture, you could fall in love with the bike or rowing machine or try a low-impact class.

3. You had surgery (or the doctor told you to lay off exercise).
In the case of a major surgery--or even a minor one--you can skip the sweat session sans guilt. The last thing your body needs after a major medical event is to work harder: It's working hard enough on recovering and feeling better. Work with your doctor to find out when you can safely work out again, and heed his or her advice. The last thing you want is to pass out while you're on the treadmill.

4. You chronically get too little sleep.
Sleep is more important for your health than working out. If you didn't sleep well (or at all), are jet-lagged or are adjusting to a new schedule, rest up before hitting the gym again. Chronically skipping sleep to exercise doesn't do a body (or mind) a lot of good. If you're just feeling a little tired after a night or two of poor sleep, exercise might actually give you an energy boost. But it's up to you to know the difference between a little fatigue and the exhaustion that comes from true sleep deprivation. Odds are, if you could fall asleep at 7 p.m. for the night, it's probably a good idea to skip the gym that day.

5. You're sick.
The general rule is that if your illness is above the neck (e.g., runny nose, sore throat) you can safely workout. If your illness is below the neck (e.g., stomach issues, lungs, full-body aches) it's best to rest. But in the early stages of a really bad cold, we still say it's totally fine to skip the gym. When your body isn't feeling it, you know it--and it's OK to hit the couch for a couple of days instead so you can let your body focus on expending extra energy toward fighting off illness. The last thing you want is to spread the germs to others or to pick up something else during cold and flu season!

6. You just completed a major athletic/endurance event.
Just ran a marathon? Slogged through a Tough Mudder? Competed in your box's CrossFit competition? You're entitled to a day off from your usual workout. After a big event, you might want to go on a walk and do some mild stretching to help alleviate any soreness, but it's probably a good idea to give yourself a break so you can properly recover.

7. You're actually too busy.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, intentions or desires, life really does get in the way of working out. You had a dentist appointment, worked all day, hauled your kids to soccer practice, baked a cake for a birthday party at work, made dinner, paid the bills, and now it's 9 p.m.--and you didn't get your workout in. That's fine! If you're genuinely too busy, you'll know it. But if this is always the case, try to find a plan to work more exercise into your hectic schedule, even in small bursts. Remember, too, that exercise is great stress relief and much-needed "me" time for many people; it can make all of those busy tasks seem more manageable!

You don't have to feel guilty for skipping a workout when you genuinely have a good reason to do so. Just watch for those excuses when you know that you could have gotten to the gym or fit in a quick at-home sweat session--and then make a plan to do it the next day! 

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Member Comments

  • There are times and I don't allow myself to punish myself. I know I will get back when the illness or injury is resolved.
    Thank you for this article.
  • good reasons.. Use your own judgement
  • Everything in moderation on the days that end in "Y"!
    Great timing. Thanks for the article.
  • This is good to know because I do feel very guilty for missing a workout if I'm too busy or really tired and/or sick.
  • This is a good reminder to me today as I have been chafing because after my knee surgery, I am still unable to do anything except some strengthening exercises and Coach Nicoles's seated cardio. It is so hard to wait until the doctor says that I may resume activities!
  • True...I'll still find a way to get in some exercise but I did skip on my plan for a fitness class today because my lower back injury has flared up a bit.
  • sounds like common sense to me..but thanks
  • Exercise is not a means to an end. It's a tool for begining your best life.
  • Common sense suggestions here. But I admit I had to laugh when I read the first one. Now THERE'S an excuse you can't use too often :-)
  • This is the first place I am have seen an *excuse* being chronic sleep deprivation. As someone currently in the threshold of just such a thing, I can say that I have found my self many times in *survival mode* just trying to get by. With very young children, and in my case, two that don't sleep through the night yet for more than a few weeks at a time, it's hard. I've always been told to push past it and it's one of the big reasons I dread fitness. If I can't find time to sleep more than 3-5 hours a night, how can I manage a workout? I have babies and a home, a husband. It's nice someone recognizes that sleep really is more important.
  • I'm one of the short small bursts if participants as physical conditions no longer allow me the luxury of doing the workouts I once enjoyed - not an excuse a fact. I've tried lots of other "options" but they don't raise my heart rate so I don't reach endorphin nirvana. Another physical anomaly I don't sweat - ever. I have to be very careful of not overheating as I can pass out. The small things, like marching in place or doing exercises in a chair are better than doing nothing but for me at least they are truly boring. That's another reason why a 10-15 minute interval works best - for me.
    Exercise helps me sleep better. I used to have insomnia due to a medication I was taking. I was so tired, I dragged myself through every workday and vegetated on the weekends. Then I started gaining weight, so I decided to start exercising. I started out slowly, 30 minutes of light aerobic - used a walking video.

    I didn't do it every day, but soon realized that on the days I DID work out, I slept longer and better. I would wake up the next day feeling less tired.

    On the days I DID NOT exercise, I had trouble sleeping and was very tired the next day.

    You don't have to do a strenuous hour-long workout every day, and you can vary the intensity and length of your workouts depending on how you feel.
  • I basically agree with the article, you have to use common sense, but sometimes excuses can get absurde. Some years ago I was being treated for cancer, but I continued to exercise because it relaxed me, I used a trikke, and weight trained as best I could. I didn't want to drastically change my life because of the cancer treatments, I tried to maintain a positive attitude and working out for me was one of the best ways to normalize my situation. Yes, by all means if your body just can't exercise, do not, but if it is a negative mindset, depression, just not feeling right because of a bad day, just go for it. Many times when I feel weak, I go for a weight training session, and after that first lift which BTW will let you know how the rest of your routines will go, it turns out to be a great workout, your mindset can determine your results.

About The Author

Erin Whitehead Erin Whitehead
is a health and fitness enthusiast who co-founded the popular website and co-wrote The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet book (available May 2014). Now busier than ever with two kids, she writes about healthy pregnancy and parenting at

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