If you train regularly and eat healthily, you should be feeling great the majority of the time. However, our body’s are by no means impenetrable, so while we will do all that we can to avoid illness, sometimes it just can’t be avoided.  

Tiredness, illness, injury, and brief bouts of lost motivation can mean you don’t always feel like training. However, we exercisers are a stubborn bunch and often don’t want to take time off unless it’s absolutely necessary. In this post I’ve compiled some common ailments in order to help you determine whether to train or rest.

Feeling unwell

If you feel unwell, the severity of whatever is ailing you should determine whether you train or not. If your symptoms are severe or are mainly below your neck, training is not a good idea and could delay your recovery. Also, if you have even a hint of a fever, you should take the day off. However, if your symptoms are mostly above your neck, you should be fine to train.

Remember though, whatever is ailing you could be communicable, so it might be kinder to your fellow gym members if you stay home until you feel better (did someone say ‘home workout?’).

If in doubt, play it safe by taking a few days off training. In many cases, a break from exercise will speed up your recovery, while training may prolong your illness.

Aches and pains

Aches and pains are a common part of living an active lifestyle. In a lot of cases, these aches and pains will evaporate once you have warmed up. However, if they persist, you should avoid any exercises that make you feel worse. Also consider:

  • • Lower weights and more reps to take stress off your joints

  • • Train around your pain e.g. avoid deep squats and impact if your knees are aching

  • • Use perfect form to make sure that you don’t make your issues worse

  • • Use a lower volume for achy and painful body parts

  • • Rest the affected area while training the rest of your body as normal

Most training-related aches and pains will soon disappear. However, if you experience more serious or long-lasting pain, make sure you get it checked by a medical professional, resting until you have been given the all clear.   

Lost motivation

On the days you really don’t feel like training, give yourself permission to do an easy workout. If it was just laziness, you will probably find that, once your warm up is done, you actually end up having a good training session. Check out my recent winter mindset article here for more tips on how to stick to your training program through winter.

If you still feel less than stellar, just take it easy and enjoy a light workout. This active rest should help speed up recovery and restore your energy so that you are back on track in no time. Another cure for lost motivation is to do a brand-new workout made up from exercises you don’t normally do. The novelty of doing something new can often be enough to get you through a patch of lost motivation.


How did you sleep last night? If you got a solid 7-9 hours, you should wake up feeling full of energy. But, if you suffered through a night of short or disrupted sleep, you may still feel tired. Lack of sleep is not the only source of tiredness; not respecting the need for good nutrition and recovery can also leave you feeling fatigued.

If lack of sleep is the problem, you need to make sure you go to bed earlier to catch up on your sleep deficit. Make sure your bed and bedroom are set up so they are conducive to a good night’s sleep. You could also use a pre-workout to power you through your training session, my favorites are RPmax and PSI from EHPlabs, or OxyShred for it’s mood enhancing benefits.

However, if poor recovery or improper nutrition is the cause of your tiredness, more training could make matters worse. In this case, you should take a few days off and take a look at your training program, ensuring it is not asking too much of you.

How do you know the difference between different types of tiredness? If your workouts are progressing from one week to the next, you are probably a little sleep-deprived and not suffering from lack of recovery or poor nutrition. However, if your progress in the gym has stalled, and you’ve not improved for a few weeks or more, overtraining is likely to be the problem.

Don’t blindly follow your program when you aren’t feeling 100%. Instead, evaluate the cause of the problem and then act accordingly. Sometimes it’s okay to power through but, other times, this will just make matters worse. Use my guide combined with your common sense and best judgement to decide which option is right for you.

Another invaluable component to help you stay on track when you’re run down or sick is nutrition, click here to check out blog on winter nutrition.




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