In our no-pain, no-gain world, it can be difficult to determine when you should push through discomfort, fatigue or lack of motivation, and when it’s OK throw in the towel and save your workout for another day. It’s easy to feel guilty about skipping a run or workout, but there are times when leaving your shoes in the closet is the better choice. If you find yourself in any of the following six scenarios, it’s OK to skip whatever run you had on the schedule and save it for another day.
You’re feeling sick
If you’re experiencing a very mild head cold, you can probably still go out for your regularly scheduled run, although you may need to modify your expectations or reduce the intensity. If, however, the cold persists for more than a few days, you’re having difficulty breathing because of plugged sinuses or you’re feverish or nauseous, you’re far better off skipping a few days of running to allow your body to get better. Pushing yourself to continue with your regular training schedule will likely prolong your illness, and could lead to needing even more days off down the road because you’ve run your body into the ground.
Your muscles are (very) sore
A little bit of muscle soreness a day or two after a hard run is normal and isn’t a reason to skip your run, but if you’re so sore that regular daily activities (like getting out of bed, sitting down or walking up and down stairs) are painful or difficult, you may want to think about swapping your run out for a lower-impact activity. Light, easy biking, pool running, swimming, gentle stretching or even a light walk could get your blood flowing to aid in recovery without the pounding associated with running.
You have an injury (even if it’s small)
It goes without saying that if you have an obvious injury, you should be taking time off (and probably making an appointment with a physiotherapist or other sports medicine practitioner). But even if you don’t have a full-blown injury, it’s still wise to ease off the throttle if you have some aches and pains that aren’t going away, since they could lead to a more serious injury if they’re ignored. The three-day rule is a simple way to determine if you should skip your run: if something is bothering you and it hasn’t gone away after three days, you should take a day or two off and book an appointment with an expert who can get to the bottom of it. A few days off, or even a week or two, is better than being sidelined by an injury for a month or more down the road.
You’re having chest pain or difficulty breathing
Any chest pain while running (or when you’re not running) could signify an underlying heart issue, which should be investigated right away. Likewise, if you’re suddenly panting for air part-way through a run or you’re having more difficulty breathing than usual, you may be having an issue with your heart or your lungs. In each case, you should hold off on running until you can get to the bottom of your symptoms, to avoid risking any serious complications.
You’ve got an important family engagement
Sometimes family (or friends) events like birthdays, reunions, celebrations or holidays make it difficult or unfeasible to fit your run or workout in that day. If this happens, don’t fret. Look at your schedule ahead of time and rearrange it so you can do your workout on a different day, which will allow you to enjoy spending time with your loved ones without stress.
You’re overwhelmed with everything else
Maybe you’ve been working overtime because of a looming deadline, or your kid has been waking up every night with nightmares or you’re just generally overwhelmed with work, family and other commitments. Remember that no matter how serious you are about it, running is a hobby, and occasionally it has to slide down the priority list to make room for other things. When this happens, give yourself a few days off to focus on those higher-priority items — running will always be there when you’re ready and able to get back to it.