When to Say “When”

The temperature has been dropping here in Boston and when I got to the gym yesterday my motivation was at zero.  Every Monday morning I teach spin then after work I usually go into the gym to lift.  When I got to the gym I was exhausted so I headed into the sauna to warm up and took an unplanned 20 minute nap (not recommended!).  After I woke up…confused… I went into the gym and started doing some shoulders figuring I could get something going, but I just wasn’t feeling it. So…I went home.  No guilt, I needed the rest and that was that.  On my way home I thought about when my last rest day was and it was probably the previous Tuesday.  I was definitely due a break and my body and mind were telling me so.

It can be really tough to decipher when you need a break or when you’re just feeling lazy.  This is when you should ask yourself– is it just mental or is it physical?

Below are 5 questions you can ask yourself to see if you’re just in the wrong mental space to get a good workout in and how to turn it around.

  • How is my mood?
Exercise can flip your mood right around if you’re feeling down in the dumps.  A lot of time just the adrenaline and endorphins from exercise will help boost your mood.  Even if it’s just temporary, a little relief from anxiety or just general bad moods is always worth it.
You can also ask yourself when the last time you ate was.  You might need a little spike in your blood sugar to get your energy and mood up before your workout.
  • How rested am I?
Think about how you slept the night before.  If you didn’t get much sleep but your body feels ok in general, you’re probably OK to give your workout a shot. In this case I suggest you start with your favorite exercises and work from there.  Sometimes you just need that little jumpstart to get motivated again OR maybe you just need to take it easy with some mobility and stretch work.
  • What does/did my day look like?

If you have a long day at of work ahead or a long day with your kids, you might not feel compelled to go through an entire workout.  But remember, your health is a priority and you have to take care of yourself.  Just do something.  I’m a huge fan of walking and on days like I’ve described above, walking is perfect.  It lowers stress levels, it’s easy on your body and you can do it anywhere.  Even just a 15 minute walk is enough…get outside in the fresh air and get some movement in.

  • When was my last rest day?
This is my favorite question to ask clients when they tell me they’re not feeling strong or motivated or if they’re always telling me they’re tired.  The usual response is “I don’t remember” or a long moment of silence.  These are driven ladies and fellas I work with so taking rest days is a foreign concept to them.  Rest days can be super uncomfortable at first because people are afraid of what a rest day might do to their progress.  Here’s what a rest day might do:
  • muscle repair and growth
  • avoids burnout
  • avoids injury or strains
  • increased performance
Rest days lead to all kinds of awesome benefits!  I doubt anyone would rather be fatigued and unmotivated as opposed to lifting heavier, going harder and feeling better 🙂
  • Am I bored with my current routine?

This is a big one!  If you aren’t having fun with your current routine, find a new one!  Exercise should be fun and you should be doing what you enjoy or it’s never going to stick.  I just happen to know someone who might be able to help you out with this one 😉


Below are 4 ways to tell if you might need a rest day because of physical reasons:

  • You need longer recovery time between sessions
  • You’re more sore than normal after your usual workouts
  • Aching joints
  • Exhaustion

I’m not even going to break these down.  If you’re feeling any of the above, take a rest day or two.  I promise you won’t lose an ounce of progress if you give your body some time to rest!  If anything, you’ll get stronger.


Like I said above,  it can be really hard to figure out when you need a rest day and when you need to just push through. I hope this article helps!


What other tips or ideas do you have for choosing when to work or when to rest?


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2 Comments on “When to Say “When””

  1. Great tips or things to think about! I think a wrote a similar post a while back during a time when I was talking about the importance of rest. I’m not always good at rest, although I am getting much better. I always get 1 rest day/week in, but generally try to take 2. The last few weeks have been bad in terms of not giving myself enough rest but sometimes I just forget!

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