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Ask Jessica: Should I work out when I feel like I just don’t have the energy?

exercise, fatigue, fitness, tired, soreness, working out

“Some weeks I feel like I just can’t workout. Yes, the kids and schedules get in the way, but it’s more about my body not getting with the program and I feel fatigued. I usually work out 3-5 times a week. Do I give in the the fatigue and rest or push through it?” – Jennifer 

Hi Jennifer!

This is a really great question – and such an important one. In my opinion, fatigue is our body’s way of telling us that we are doing too much. But with our busy schedules (and the help of caffeine) it’s easy to brush off that message and ignore it in the name of “achieving our goals/getting things done.”  I’m here to tell you it’s OK to skip your workout and rest.

But, before you start blowing off every workout at the slightest bit of fatigue, there are a couple of things I recommend asking yourself first when you find yourself in that situation:

#1: Am I really tired or just not feeling up to it today? 

If you are tired enough that you could lie down and take a nap, then you should! We’re often depriving ourselves of sleep in order to squeeze in a workout, but the reality is if you aren’t getting enough rest at night your workout isn’t going to do much for your body (or your weight loss efforts).

If you usually spend an hour for your workout, try taking a power nap for 20 minutes and then wake up with a 10-minute walking or stretching session. Chances are you’ll feel more energized and restored, not worn out and depleted, which could make the difference when it comes time to say ‘no thanks’ to that afternoon candy bar or double mocha latte.

On the other hand, if you just aren’t ‘feeling it’ today, it could be time to mix up your workouts a bit. If you subscribe to the ‘go hard or go home’ mentality when it comes to exercise, you may be setting yourself up for burnout. Sure, interval training is effective and beneficial, but that kind of high intensity interval work shouldn’t be done every time you sweat (that’s why you’ll see a balanced of both low and higher intensity routines in our weekly class schedules). And, take a look at the duration of your workouts. Spending an hour at the gym (which is basically an hour and a half if you count transport time, etc) could be draining your energy even more by simply adding more stress to your daily to-do list. If you just can’t bear the idea of hitting the gym today, try something else instead. Go for a walk/jog around the neighborhood or maybe try a workout video. Make sure your workout week is full of both peaks and valleys, and vary in length and modality, to keep your energy steady.

#2: When was the last time I did something restorative for my body?

When was the last time you did a relaxing stretch session, took a relaxing bath, meditated and/or enjoyed a massage? If you can’t recall the last time you did something to refill your tank, it shouldn’t be surprising that there is no energy left in it! It’s easy to get so focused on ‘deletion’ when it comes to fitness – in the name of burning calories, shedding fat, sweating, etc. – but to stay balanced (and energized!) it’s so important to restore your body too. If you are really feeling burnt out, it may be the perfect day to swap your workout for a restoration session. Consider booking a massage, doing a gentle, restorative yoga class or simply soak in a hot bath with some Epsom salts. Regularly scheduling in time to ‘refill your tank’ may be the missing piece you need to stay consistent with your busy schedule, and to keep seeing results!

#3: Can I do a 10-minute workout?

If you are well rested but still just not up to your regular workout for the day, see if you can simply do a shorter session instead. You may end up spending more time trying to talk yourself into a workout then actually doing one if you keep it short and focused. Our 10-minute workouts can be just as effective as longer sessions, especially if you give them your all during that short period of time. Tell yourself,  “it’s only 10 minutes!” to get going, and, if you feel like you can keep going after those 10 minutes, go for it! If not, at least you got yourself moving (and hopefully feeling better).

Finally, it’s important to note that as a woman, your cycle can effect your energy level, so some of this fatigue may also be related to hormones. If you notice this drop in energy around your period, for example, this could be what is causing your fatigue. If you think that is the case, I’d recommend trying a lower intensity routine (walking is great) until your energy is back.  Many women find that exercise can help improve their mood, energy and cramping, so you may find it helpful to stay active during this time, but perhaps not push yourself quite as hard. It’s also the perfect time to work on the restoration piece we talked about above. Consider spending this time of the month taking great care of your body  (like a regular tune up) — get plenty of sleep, stay hydrated, treat yourself to a massage, etc. to bounce back with even more energy than before!

Hope this helps & keep up the great work you are doing!
Tell us: what do you do on those days when you don’t feel like working out? Share your solution with us in the comments below!
Got a question for Jessica? Leave it in the comments below and I may answer it in an upcoming post.
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8 comments… add one

  • Cynthia Jackson August 25, 2015, 2:58 pm

    need additional info: in regards to work out!!!

  • madeinsanpablo April 18, 2014, 3:50 pm

    I found (for myself) that’s it’s hard to tell the differences between being truly burnt out and tired, and just being lazy. That being said, I get up anyway, and try to work out. If my form isn’t great, and I’m struggling too much with the warm up, I quit, and go back to bed. That’s how I can tell that I’m just too tired. But most of the time, I actually perk up during the warm up, the energy starts flowing, and I’m good to go.

  • moira February 8, 2014, 1:35 pm

    When I feel a wee bit tired I just remember what I felt and looked like 6 weeks ago before I started doing Jessica’s workouts and it doesn’t take me long to get off my sofa and switch Jessica’s next workout and get going!

  • ummabdullah January 20, 2014, 8:48 am

    Great info! I have a question too…I need to lose about 80 lbs so I’ve started doing intermittent fasting but I don’t know how long the fast should last In order to be effective and not destructive, I try to stop eating and only having water at around 7:30pm so what time should I break the fast? These days I’m going pretty long because I homeschool in the mornings then by time I’m ready to eat I get busy n usually forget until hours later which is about maybe 2 or 2:30pm and sometimes later like today lol, so if you could please respond that would be great thanks!

    • Jessica Smith January 20, 2014, 10:38 am

      Hi! I’m not actually a fan of fasting and I definitely do not recommend exercising while fasting as it can cause dizziness. Here’s more from our nutritionist about why fasting may not be the best way to lose weight.

  • jesso514 January 19, 2014, 10:16 pm

    I love to work out, and I plan my whole morning around getting it in. If I’m not feeling the workout I had planned, it was probably too hard for the state of my body. Then I shift the intensity down with something lower impact or yoga or strength. I work 2 jobs on Fri and Sat every week, so sometimes on Sunday I’m exhausted and in pain. On those days I either stretch or take a break, and plan a double work out on Monday. I have been trying to get massages and facials a little more often, or at least go to bed early when I can. I also schedule time to hang out with Nibbler, my dog, on the couch (or we lie in bed for a few extra minutes on Sunday 🙂

  • Marypatt616 January 19, 2014, 5:35 pm

    This is great, sometimes we can be so hard on ourselves. Sometimes you just need to chill! We are always ALWAYS on the run. I try not to bear myself up when I just need that walk around the block or that glass of wine and a good book!

  • Felicia January 17, 2014, 12:48 pm

    There are days I feel like that, like today I did this morning, but I got up and did the strength workout and I feel so much better.


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