There’s a whole variety of breaks, but the ones I’m thinking about right now are the unanticipated days where no matter of good intentions will either get you to the gym or give you the strength to get a work out done.
Fatigue/Lack of Energy
Sometimes it’s fatigue or lack of energy. Those days I feel the worst about since it’s usually my fault some how. Maybe I stayed up too late when I knew I shouldn’t have. Maybe I ate a lot of grain carbs and blew out my energy and sugar levels causing them to sag later on. These are the types of break days I try to minimize.
Usually, the lack of energy sensation passes once I force myself into the actual building. Even planning my work out gives me a little boost to overcome this. I do find, if I don’t get myself into the gym, even the parking lot, I know I won’t overcome this challenge.
Then there’s the sick days. I was told once, if it’s above the neck, work through it, and if it’s below, rest it. I don’t know that I would fully agree with this. There are times when the issue below the neck can be worked around and the issue above the neck could easily hinder my ability to perform an exercise safely.
A good example of the above neck rule not working for me is migraines. I become light sensitive and often very disoriented. Doing a chest press would cause me to be staring into bright lights or, when raising my heartrate through cardio or resistance training, the pressure might build to increase the pain. Neither of these scenarios is a good one.
Will I take a painkiller and re-assess later? Yes, I will and do, but in terms of what pains to work through, the above rule is not tried and true for me all the time.
The same goes for below the neck. Sure, if I have a strained or pulled muscle, I won’t necessarily work that one. But if there’s other things Ican work out in the mean time without adding to it, then heck yeah I’ll do it. Often, after a particularly joint-stressing uppeer body work out (usually involving chin ups, bicep curls, and push ups), my elbows get a mild form of joint pain (similar to tennis elbow, minus the tennis playing).
I will ice my elbows the night of and maybe the following night as well, but I still work out. I never work a group of muscles two days in a row anyway so the next couple of days might be leg strength resistance and then a day of running. When I do return to arms, it’s when my elbow no longer has discomfort or with a routine that doesn’t put as much strain specifically on the elbow (seated rows, for example).
Yes, I go mental sometimes. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. I define mental break days as the days where you aren’t in a good headspace to be pushing yourself. It takes time, in my experience, to know when is a “Mental Break” Day and when is a “Need an Outlet” Day. The difference between these two for me is usually the nature of the issue.
If I’m angry, frustrated, mad, boiling over, etc., those days I go to the gym and work through my frustration. These days often include medicine ball slams. I can’t tell you how GREAT that feels on those days. I can’t recommend enough doing that exercise on these days. By the third set, if you have any energy left for frustration, you’re either not doing enough reps (and need another set) or you’re the Hulk and you’re going to be smashing everything anyway.
The way I tell if it’s a “Mental Break” day is when the nature of my ‘mentalness’ is being down, in an extreme way. I take medication sometimes to treat an internal physical problem, but the medication is based on hormones and as such, sometimes in the course of this medication, my moods will fluctuate. Other times it might be I get some really bad news.
Whatever the reasoning, I’ve tried to work through those days before. Everyone is different, but for me, those days are the days where I would be best to be at home, processing whatever is going through my head. I’ll be processing it where ever I am, and if that’s the gym, that means my mind will wander, and most likely when it shouldn’t. I can tell you I have had it wander at the worst times (at the peak of a chess press, when the dumb bells are right above my face, for an example, that was scary). I also find I don’t push as hard and even a moderate work out that I normally would have no trouble with, I trod through at best.
So what does this all mean? In the end, it means that break days are sometimes necessary and the reasons can vary. Everyone needs to mess around to find out what works for them, but don’t feel discouraged if you have to take an unanticipated break day, because it happens. It doesn’t mean you ‘fell off the wagon’ or ruined your work out routine. It means that you recognized that either your body or your mind was not going to be in a place to give its all and most likely whatever you would have done, would have been risky/dangerous or wouldn’t have been up to par (possibly also adding to your mental state of mind). We all need them sometimes, so don’t be afraid to use them when you do. You’ll be rewarded the next day with more motivation and energy for having allowed yourself to rest.