Top 5 Excuses to Skip Your Workout

Hate feeling guilty about skipping your workout?  It's easy to feel that way when we use the usual excuses  - You're too tired or too busy, you're too hungry or you're just not motivated.  Those always seem like good excuses at the time, but the guilt usually starts creeping in shortly after your decision to skip your workout.  You feel guilty because you know those excuses just don't pass muster.  After all, there are plenty of people exercising right now who manage to work around those same obstacles.

So, is there ever a time when you should skip your workout?  A time when you can do so guilt-free?  Absolutely. 

You're Sick

Sick man lying on couch checking temperature with thermometer
Kathleen Finlay/Image Source/Getty Images

Being sick is a great excuse to skip your workout, especially when you:

  • Have a fever - Your body temperature is already too high and exercise will only make it worse.  Plus, a fever is a sign that your body is fighting an illness and it needs all of your energy to do that.
  • Have a deep, hacking cough - Exercise may exacerbate the problem, especially if you do cardio or some other activity that increases your heart rate and respiration. 
  • Dehydration and fatigue - You know how your doctor always tells you to drink plenty of fluids when you're sick?  That's because you often lose water when you're sick by coughing, sneezing and sweating out a fever.  Not only will exercise feel awful when you're dehydrated, it will also steal even more precious fluid from your body.
  • Generally feeling crappy - Sometimes you don't have many symptoms yet, but you just don't feel good.  That may be a sign you're coming down with something and a high intensity workout could lower your immune system even more, making you more vulnerable to getting sick.

If your energy is good and your symptoms are above the neck, a light or moderate workout may actually make you feel better, but don't feel bad if you skip it.  Sometimes you're better off taking a rest day. 

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You're So Sore, You Need a Crane to Get Out of Bed

If you've ever overdone it to the point of near paralysis the next day, you know the feeling - Even rolling over in bed can cause a full-body seizure and you don't even want to think about what happens when you try actually getting up.

You can expect a certain amount of soreness any time you try something new or come back to exercise after a break, but you shouldn't be so sore that you can barely lift a toothbrush, nor should you be sore every day.

If you're that sore, I probably don't have to convince you to take a rest day, but hardcore exercisers often need a reminder that sometimes rest is the best thing you can do, especially if: 

  • You have limited range of motion
  • Your muscles hurt to the touch
  • It hurts to move
  • You feel like you're going to die

You may even find that the soreness gets worse around the second day after your workout.  If that happens, experts generally recommend rest or that you workout at a lower intensity for 1-2 days.  You can also do exercises that don't involve the sore muscles, if you really want to get some kind of exercise in.

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Your Doctor Said So

How often do you ignore your doctor's advice?  If you're like me, all the time, especially when it comes to injuries, illnesses and exercise.  My defense is that, as a trainer, I know lots of ways around injuries and I know my body better than anyone.

However, my doctor has been through medical school, so I'm pretty sure she knows a thing or too about the human body and when I should avoid putting it through a workout.

My compromise is to get very specific with my doctor and get complete clearance before I decided to totally ignore her.

Before You Disobey Your Doctor

When you see your doctor, let him or her know you have some specific questions about your situation such as:

  • Can I still workout if I avoid using the injured area or stay at a low intensity?
  • What exercises or activities should I avoid?
  • Are there any exercises that can help my situation?
  • What specific motions should I avoid doing?
  • Will physical therapy help?

My clients often take copies of our workouts so the doctor can go over them and give the okay.  And if your doctor says no exercise, no matter how many questions you ask, there's probably a very good reason to follow that advice.

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You're Way Hungover

Getty Images/Alex and Laila

Can you really sweat out the toxins after a night of drinking?  Unfortunately, that would be a no.  Your body has a very sophisticated system for getting rid of toxins and it typically involves your liver removing those toxins and getting rid of them through waste.

Sweating doesn't really get rid of anything.  In fact, the point of sweating is to cool you off, not to help you get rid of your hangover.  The problem with a hangover is that you're:

  • Dehydrated - If you drank a lot last night, your electrolytes are out of whack, leaving you parched.  A workout will only dehydrate you even more, which will make you feel worse.
  • Clumsy - Hungover exercisers are clumsy exercisers, leaving you vulnerable to injuries or just an embarrassing gym moment.  Don't let that be you.
  • Sick - That yucky dehydrated feeling can also cause fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea, which can only dehydrate you even more.  That doesn't sound like a fun workout to me.
To stay hydrated during exercise, you need to start out on the right foot, which means about 2 big glasses of water a couple of hours before you exercise and then 8 to 10 ounces before your workout and then throughout.  You'll probably need even more than that if you really tied one on.

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You're Sleep Deprived

Getty Images/Walter Zerla

If you're a sleep-deprived exerciser you've probably used exercise, along with loads of caffeine, to boost your energy.  That's okay now and then but, if you're experiencing long-term sleep deprivation, those workouts are only a temporary band-aid for a more serious problem.

When you're chronically sleep deprived, you experience:

  • Impaired performance - I'm a klutz even on my best day, but sleep deprivation can have an unfortunate affect on your performance.  Your reflexes are slow, as is your reaction time so, when you drop your iPod on a moving treadmill belt, your ability to catch it before you trip over it and fall is greatly reduced.
  • Difficulty concentrating - Even mindless exercise requires at least a small part of your attention to keep you from hurting yourself.  If you're sleep deprived, it's even harder to pay attention, leaving you vulnerable to injury and just generally doing something stupid.
  • Aches, pains and fatigue - When you don't get enough sleep, that can actually make your body hurt.  Exercise isn't going to make you feel any better.

Sometimes, you really do need sleep more than you need exercise. 


Nielsen, H. Exercise and Immunity.

Cheung K, Hume P, Maxwell L. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Sports Medicine. 2003;33(2):145-164.

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