When not to work out – genuine signs versus mindset


There will be a pivotal moment, each day, where you will have a decision to make.  Do I, as planned, go and improve and get closer to my goals myself by getting stronger, fitter and faster or….do I migrate to the sofa, stay in bed, skip the lunchtime session in favour of a 3 course lunch or the after work one in favour of the pub!?  This moment can be made even more difficult when you are ill or just feeling a bit off and can’t decide whether you should genuinely take some time out or you are letting yourself down.  Here are my thoughts…

What I mean when I say ‘work out’

In this context – ‘working out’ is a moderate to high intensity training session that leaves your body challenged.  There is a significant difference between this and ‘movement’ i.e. a walk or low intensity bike ride or swim for example.  When we ‘work out’, we put stress on our body, the body adapts and as a result, over time, we increase our fitness and strength.  When we are ill or run down for example, our body struggles to cope with this level of stress and it can actually be counterproductive.


When it comes to making health and fitness part of your everyday life, mindset is key.  Mindset is what starts you off on the journey, helps you form healthy habits and picks you up when you need it.  A positive growth mindset is needed to make sustainable changes as we set out to make improvements, adjustments and enjoy the ride along the way.  We have to be open to change and if your mindset isn’t in the right place you may struggle.  People with a growth mindset vs a fixed mindset (check this link out for more on this) will be in an advantageous position.

That being said, you can start off in the right place and find your mindset wavering along the journey when motivation isn’t as high as when you first started – but how do we know what are genuine signs we need a break versus just our mindset in need of a boost / reset?

Genuine signs…

As a general rule, if your ailment is ‘above the neck’ i.e. a sore throat, head cold etc. it is generally considered to be OK to work out if your energy levels allow, i even find a good sweat can help alleviate these types of illnesses.  That isn’t to say you should go all guns blazing but a light to moderate work out should be fine.  Ultimately, listen to your body, adapt workouts if required and always stop if necessary.  If your issue is ‘below the neck’ i.e. respiratory issues, sickness, stomach bug etc. – generally you should rest.  If you feel up to a walk or something light, that is fine but don’t put added stress on your body.

Other things that might effect your decision..


Sleep generally is super important and becomes even more so if you are trying to fight off ay kind of illness.  If working out means you aren’t getting enough Z’s, potentially reconsider.  Don’t buy into the ‘bros’ who talk about operating on 4 hrs sleep and still smashing it in the gym, the likelihood is that they are using other ‘stimulants’ to keep them going! Sleep is vital to recovery and helping the body to operate at its optimum.

Public gyms

If you workout in a public gym – think about others and whether it is appropriate to attend and potentially spread your germs!


When ill, something has to give.  If you have a important and manic day at work and going to the gym is going to mean you crash and burn mid afternoon, maybe it isn’t such a good idea.

Accepting your decision

If you are facing an ‘above the neck’ type scenario but decide your energy levels just aren’t there or sleep may be a better option – accept your decision and moved on.  Don’t lie there feeling guilty or punish yourself for the rest of the day.

So, in summary…

If your illness is ‘above the neck’ and your decision to workout has not been effected by the above, crack on.  Re-adjust that mindset and find motivation to get up and go – you will most likely feel better for it.  If on the otherhand your illness is ‘below the neck’ – take it easy and use the time to recover before going again.

If you are finding generally you are lacking in motivation and drive and your mindset in’t quite there, I would love to work with you.  Mindset is one of the 3 key pieces to achieving results that I focus on, alongside nutrition and personal training.  Whether it is fat loss or muscle build or just generally getting fitter you need all three elements in the right place with all my clients – take a look what’s on offer.

 All views are my own.