It’s Okay To Take A Break From Fitness

Fitness Should Be Fun

Whether you’re a fitness newbie or a seasoned veteran, you’re going to burn out on whatever is keeping you fit and healthy.

You may look at those weights and think you’ll lose your mind if you pick them up and put them down one more time. You may look at your delightfully colorful running shoes and want to rip them apart with your hands rather than run a single more step in them.

And that’s okay. That’s normal. Fitness can be stressful, and burnout happens to the best of us.

What’s important is that you recognize when you’re burning out so that you can do something about it. You have to recognize that it’s okay to take a break from your fitness routine.

You’re not going to lose your ability to run or lift if you take a couple days off to rest. You’re not going to gain back all the weight you’ve lost if you let yourself slack off a bit. And you’re definitely not going be able to keep going if you’re not having fun.

So take a break if working out is just stressing you out. 

Rest Is Important

There are two kinds of rest days: physical rest days, where you rest your weary bones and muscles so they can heal and repair themselves for the beating you’re sure to give them next time.

Without taking physical rest days, you’re probably going to flounder. You may even hurt yourself.

If you push too hard physically, you can injure yourself. You can tear a muscle, get a stress fracture, that kind of thing. Your body needs the rest to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Luckily, fatigue and pain are there to tell you when to take those rest days. Your performance slackens, and you just can’t seem to perform at the level you were just a few days before. Your body will simply be unable to do the work you’re asking of it.

So you take a rest day or two, and you’re as good as new.

But what about the other kind? The mental rest days?

Well, these are the days where you just don’t care. You don’t even like the thought of moving. Maybe you just laze around, enjoying yourself and letting your mind recover from the beating it’s taken by motivating you to be active for so long. You may sleep a few hours later than usual, or maybe you binge-watch House of Cards on Netflix.

But whatever it is, you do whatever you can to avoid being active.

And these days awesome. I’d even say they’re necessary for you to hit your fitness goals.

Wait, What?

I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but the moment fitness stops being fun, you need to take a serious look around at why it stopped being fun.

Sometimes, that’s because you just need a break. Fitness is as much about your mental and emotional well-being as it is physical, so if the sight of your running shoes makes your blood pressure spike, don’t go running. If you look at that kettlebell and get the sweats (in the bad way, obviously!), then don’t swing that sucker today.

It’s okay. You can take a few days off if you have to. You can recalibrate yourself. You can try out other activities. You can alter your routine.

Sure, if you take weeks and months off, you’ll lose some of your fitness. If you stop lifting weights for a couple of weeks, you won’t be able to lift as heavy when you return. If you stop running for a couple of weeks, you won’t be able to go as far or as fast.

But if you take a day or two off because the stress of getting going is making you feel bad? Take a break. If you get sick to your stomach at the thought of another day working out? Take a break.

Working out and fitness are about fun and health. They’re about making your life better. If you’re not happy, then you’re wasting your time.

Sure, some days are going to be better than others. There are some runs you have that suck, and there’s no real reason why other than that they suck. But if every run sucks–or every trip to the gym–then you need to evaluate why.

You need to think about the end result of all this and what you want out of your fitness routine. If it’s just calorie burn, then by all means, keep doing things you hate. But if you’re in it for the long haul, don’t let your workout stress you out.

Fitness is about fun and being in a good place, physically and mentally. Keep it that way.




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  1. Shrinkinguy

    Interesting thoughts. I’ve been on this fitness bandwagon for about 1 1/2 years and have really only taken one rest day per week on average that whole time. The 70+ pounds I’ve lost is a testament to that commitment, but it does seem like I suffer from the fear of losing my good habit if I ever skip more than a day or two. And I do have to admit that my workouts don’t have the same fun factor that they used to. I know I need to get excited again, shake up my routine, but that feels mentally exhausting. But perhaps I’m just letting other life pressures get to me. I do know that if I start my day with a workout, whether my heart is in it or not, the day does tend to go better. But thanks for your reassurance that it’s ok to take a break once in a while.

    • B.J. Keeton

      I know that feeling, man. What really helps me as a runner is to focus on different things. Some days it’s distance, some days it’ll be speed, and right know, it’s all about making sure I run at least a mile each and every day.

      In terms of breaks, I have heard the rule that about a week off means you’ll lost (at most) 5-10% fitness if you do absolutely nothing. If you even keep up at about 30% intensity, then you’re in what’s called a recovery week and you shouldn’t even lose a bit. You may even see an increase when you come back. That happened to me a couple years back–I left off for a week and when I went back to running, I was faster and could go for longer distances. It was really odd. I had been pushing too hard and hadn’t even realized it.

  2. Jenn

    Taking breaks is one of the hardest things for me to do. I am all about goinggoinggoing and it’s tough to put on the brakes.

    However, those periods of physical and mental rest do help make us stronger and get us closer to our goals, so it’s a matter of seeing the big picture and working with that, rather than having tunnel vision on the smaller, immediate goal.

    • B.J. Keeton

      I really do get that way, too, especially right now with this Runstreak. I have to keep the big picture in mind, myself. My wife told me there was no way I could train for a triathlon and a marathon at the same time if I wanted to keep my sanity. She’s right, but I have a hard time seeing it on my own.


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