Okay, so we’ve covered similar threads on this before, right? Right. But this one is going to be pain specific…meaning I’m going to be talking about physical pain, injury, and teaching yourself how to stop.
So, why would we ever want to stop working out? I mean, we go through a lot of hassle to get ourselves to a point where we are consistent. We work even harder to maintain that consistency and see improvement. So why on God’s green Earth would we want to jeopardize that by stopping?
Well, because one day off is better than a month off.
But we’ll get there.
First and foremost, when talking about pain, what I mean when I say “I can’t workout” is that I’m not sure what’s going on with my body or I am sure what’s going on and it’s not good.
Sometimes, I have a firm grasp of what’s going on. I have a twisted ankle, a flare up of tendinitis, I fell off a bike and got scraped up and banged around. The obvious stuff. Maybe even an old injury coming back to say “hello”. Those things I know not to exercise with.
That doesn’t mean I always skip a workout though. These old injuries or long-term problems normally force me into a position where I learn to work around them. But…when I do decide I need to take a knee it’s because I know that what I’m feeling is bad and will get worse if I do a workout.
The rest of the time it means I don’t know.
So why do I skip?
Because I trust my body…or at least I’m in the process of learning how to do that.
I do an awful lot. I don’t stick to one thing or even two. I do about five different kinds of workouts in a week which means that my body gets pretty tired. Sometimes an ache isn’t just an ache. Sometimes a weak arm or leg or core isn’t just that. Sometimes it can be the beginning of something much more.
For instance, I had a slight knee twinge once around four months ago. I ignored it (never, ever again) kept running, biking, blah blah blah and then a week later I couldn’t do anything. Instead of taking one day off to ice my knee, rest it, stretch it, throw some KT Tape on it and figure out what caused it and what would make it worse, I completely ignored it.
And I ultimately struggled on and off with it for another month.
It was at that moment that I realized I was not taking very good care of myself. Sure, I was exercising, eating right, even listening to my big injuries. But I wasn’t listening to my body as a whole. I wasn’t listening to when it said it needed rest or couldn’t do anymore. i didn’t even hear scream that I need to stop.
So I re-evaluated my lifestyle and my choices. And I found that I was being awfully stubborn.
I was more interested in smashing a goal than the sustainability of my exercise.
And I think a lot of us are very guilty of this. I want to live a long time and I want to be active for my whole life. Now, that means that I cannot break my body down by forty. I have to strong, solid, able for a lot longer than that. That means that I need to relax, listen to my body, and understand that I have my whole life ahead of me.
What’s missing one run? One class? One ride? What does that matter over the span of the next hopefully 80 plus years?
It doesn’t matter if I miss that run. But it might matter if I do that run. If I throw on my shoes, ignore my body, and hit the road I could very well hurt myself. I could do damage that haunts me forever. Maybe I’m too tired to workout but I’m going to do it anyway because that’s what I’m supposed to do. Well, fatigue means I don’t judge something right and bam. Rotator cuff injury.
It’s important to let it go.
But not too much.
Let’s look at this picture. What makes this chain strong? It’s links. Just like us and our lives. If we have a weak link, when we put pressure on the chain it’ll snap (eventually). Our day to day actions are our links. The more weakness we allow in them, the more likely our chain will be to snap.
So we do our best to strengthen each link. We might mess up our “diet” one day. But that’s okay. We have a million more days to make sure we get it right. We might not take time to stretch or restore our body (foam rolling, fascia blasting, hot tubs) but that’s okay. We have many more days to make sure we do it right.
The problem only occurs when we make a habit of doing the wrong thing for our bodies. This is where stepping back from our workouts can be tricky.
When do you know when it’s okay to stop for a day?
When you know that you’ll try to come right back to it. At least, that’s what it got down to for me. I love my exercise schedule but I didn’t trust myself to take even one day off until I could realize that I loved it enough to always keep coming back to it. I had built up enough willpower to always be able to drag myself back.
That’s the key.
If you don’t have that willpower, taking a break isn’t going to do you any good because you’ll be waving goodbye to your healthy habits. So instead of taking a break from all exercise, if you haven’t built up a reliable amount of drive, switch it up. If you can’t run, do yoga. If you can’t do yoga, swim. If you can’t bike, try running or Pilates (why not!).
The point is, just do something else while you try to recover or give yourself a day. Eventually, you’ll have enough of that willpower and drive to be able to take a day or two off. A week or two off and not have to worry about returning.
Think about your choices, each one as a link in your life. Especially when it comes to our physicality we have to think about this way. “What will keep me at my strongest?” and “What will make me stronger?” and “Will this weaken me?” Those are extremely important questions to ask when we are faced with the choice of needing to sit out a workout.
It is completely all right if the answer is “This run will weaken me today. I’ll do it tomorrow.” That’s okay.
Just make sure you do it tomorrow.