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

by | Dec 29, 2019 | 16 comments

Should I work out when I feel like I just don’t have the energy by Jessica Smith


“Some weeks I feel like I just can’t work out. 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 to 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 a 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 balance of both low and higher intensity routines in our recommended workout programs and plans). Our Walk Strong series, for example, specifically includes a mix of moderate to high intensity and varying exercise types in order to work with the natural ebb and flow of energy that results from challenging your body enough to stimulate change while also allowing for the equally important active recovery and rest that is necessary for those changes to occur.


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 an at-home program. 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 session 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 quick 10-15 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, 15 (even 5!) minute workouts can be just as effective as longer sessions, especially if you give 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). (Our free 1-Mile Walk n’ Talk episodes here can be super helpful to get you up and moving with minimal effort, and many of our fans tell us they often keep going after just one mile because they feel so much better!)


Finally, it’s important to note that as a woman, your cycle can affect 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, yoga or our fusion style routines may be great options) until your energy is back. You’ll find many of these types of restorative as well as moderate-intensity sessions in our complete programs that can make good options. 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. Please 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? Do you have a question we can tackle in a future post? Please share with us in the comments below!

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  1. Paula

    If I do not feel like working out, I try to get through the warm-up and then I reevaluate. Usually I can complete the rest of the workout. If I am exhausted, I skip a day. I’m a cancer patient and I have to listen to my body. If I’m low-energy, sometimes doing the “Under the Weather Workout” is just the right thing.

    • Jessica Smith

      Thanks so much for sharing this great advice — I love that you honor your body so well, Paula! Please keep up all of the wonderful work you are doing taking care of your body and your health. Can’t wait to get moving with you again soon. 🙂

  2. Sally

    Just wanted to drop in and say a big thank you for the great workouts. I love that the dress code is so decent and the workouts fun and designed in a way that allows you to feel your body and adjust if needed. A Happy, healthy and prosperous new year🙏 to you and your team and of course also Peanut 😉

  3. Deborah Gerish

    Really needed the advice in this post!

    Jessica, I’d love a related post on how to assess pain before, during, and after a workout. How do you know that you could be hurting yourself by working out or continuing a workout? Is there “good” pain and “bad” pain? Do braces really help protect elbows and knees?

  4. deb

    Excellent response. I have thyroid disease and can’t metabolize b12 so fatigue is a constant for me. That said, I do what I can and try to exercise at least five days a week and tailor to my body’s needs.

  5. Pat Huart

    I sometimes start out thinking I’ll only do a one mile workout but once I get started I feel good so keep going. And you have workouts for every mood. ????????????????

  6. Jenna

    I find sometimes when I don’t feel like exercising, I just have to put on my workout clothes and my attitude changes! By doing this small step 9 out of 10 times I perk up and feel like getting to my workout after all!

    • Annette Dombrowski

      I agree with you! I came home from work.. jumped into work out clothes and before i knew it an hour had gone by and i was all pumped and full of energy!

  7. Kathy

    I find that I don’t always want to workout but once I get started I feel so much better more energized.

  8. Kim C

    That advice is so much appreciated and even more so, your comment above, progress not perfection! I have consistently worked out for years but it has become such a chore for me. Since finding your videos and starting this most recent Walk Strong program, I am finding I am actually looking forward to working out rather than feeling dread. I also have shred that feeling of guilt if I don’t get a full workout in or replace a cardio workout with a restorative yoga because that’s all I feel I can do that day. Thank you for helping me change the way I think about exercise and for teaching me it’s ok and even good to listen to my body!

    • Jessica Smith

      That’s wonderful Kim! We’re so glad you have been enjoying the Walk STRONG program – thanks so much for joining us! Keep up the great work you are doing taking care of your body and your health 🙂

  9. Libby N

    Why do I feel hungry after a workout ? & Is it ok to eat a protein cookie which has 30g protein, 5g Fat & 5 Carbs to help with the hunger ?

  10. Angela

    So glad I read this today! I decided to sleep an extra hour today, just like I did yesterday, because the baby was up more than usual the past two nights. I was feeling a little sad about already getting “behind” on the new 60 day workout, but I realize that tomorrow I can just pick up where I left off. I just started doing your workouts about 6 weeks ago, and love that you keep it real and give sound advice! My 6th baby just turned 4 mos old and I feel better than after any of my others, thanks in large part to your workouts.

    • Jessica Smith

      That’s great! So glad it helped take some pressure off 🙂 Remember progress not perfection is our goal!

  11. thomasd

    Good advice….I struggle with hypothyroid and extreme fatigue but almost always feel better when I finish my work out. Exercise is essential for many reasons but for me I know that it aids in oxygenating blood which in turn delivers oxygen to all of my cells and improves overall functioning. I like that you give so many options like a short or low impact workout for days when the fatigue or pain is too much.

  12. DM

    …or do a dance workout. I also find that a low to moderate kickboxing workout is not too hard on my body either for whatever reason.


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