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Skip your workout (and the guilt)

When it comes to workouts, sometimes it pays to do less. Yes, you heard me right! As a sports medicine physician, I'd never tell anyone to stop being active but your workout schedule should include rest days. Here are my top 10 reasons to skip the guilt and your workout:

  1. You're sleep deprived. Getting enough sleep is just as important as working out for your overall health. If you didn't sleep well or at all (new parents I'm talking to you), are jet-lagged or are adjusting to a new schedule, take the time to rest up before heading to the gym again. Skipping sleep to exercise is not good for your body or mind. It is up to you to determine the difference between a little fatigue and the exhaustion that comes from sleep deprivation.
  2. You're sick. The sniffles are not an excuse to hit the couch instead of the gym. Light to moderate exercise can actually boost immunity and cut down on sick time. The general rule of thumb I share with my patients is symptoms above the neck (think runny or stuffy nose, cough) it's OK to exercise. If you're experiencing symptoms below the neck (chest congestion, upset stomach, body aches) it's best to wait and allow your body to recover.
  3. You're missing your period. When women stop ovulating and menstruating due to an imbalance in the energy expended and caloric intake, it's called amenorrhea. While some women might rejoice at the thought of no more menstrual cycles, this is a cause for concern. Women experiencing amenorrhea are at risk for inadequate nutrition, low bone density and infertility.
  4. Your weight loss has plateaued. When you're trying to lose extra weight it's natural to think an increase in frequency or intensity of your workouts equals more weight loss. What most people don't realize is the added stress to your body can cause a built-in protective response that results in the opposite.
  5. You just had a baby. After giving birth you should wait six weeks before you work out, and even longer if you've had a C-section. It can be dangerous to exercise too soon. Postpartum bleeding (lochia) can continue well past four weeks and overdoing anything can cause bleeding to increase. Don't rush into restarting your fitness plan until your body and doctor say you are ready. (Also see reason #1.)
  6. You've been active all day. There will be days where you are busy helping a friend move, remodeling your house or working in the yard. If you've been busy doing something physically active all day long you might not feel like hitting the gym, too. It's OK to skip your workout if you been physically active all day long.
  7. Your (insert body part here) was in pain last time you worked out. Although feeling sore is expected after you work out, it is not OK to feel pain. Don't work out until you see a doctor to rule out injury. If you exercise anyway, you may make the injury worse.
  8. Your muscles grow when you rest. Weight training creates tiny tears in your muscles that can only be repaired by rest. The repair process is what makes your muscles stronger than before. Give your muscles time to rest and recover, usually until you're no longer sore.
  9. You're burnt out. Spending too much of your limited time exercising can lead to burn out. Make sure your exercise routine allows for balance between work, family, sleep, money, time and energy—not one that makes you want to quit after a month.
  10. You really are too busy. Despite your best efforts and intentions, life really does get in the way of working out. You worked all day, hauled the kids to their activities, made dinner, paid bills, put the kids to bed and now it's 9 p.m.—and you didn't get your workout in. Give yourself a pass today, just don't let it become a regular excuse. If this is always the case, try to find a plan to work more exercise into your hectic schedule, even in small amounts. Exercise is a great stress relief, it can make all of those busy tasks seem more enjoyable.

Guilt can be a good motivator to exercise more, but you don't have to feel guilty for skipping a workout when you genuinely have a good reason to do so. However, be mindful of excuses when you know that you could have gotten to the gym or fit in some activity at home. Then make a plan for tomorrow!

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