Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty About Skipping the Gym

Young caucasian woman relaxes at home with music

Key Points

  • A workout break is a voluntary, intentional pause from your exercise routine.

  • Workout breaks prevent injuries, illness, and burnout.

  • Chronic fatigue, muscle pain, boredom, and low enthusiasm indicate that it’s time to skip the gym.

  • Doctors recommend that all athletes skip the gym for one to two weeks.

  • Incorporate light movement, healthy eating, self-care, and self-assessment into your workout break.

If you’re feeling guilty or self-conscious about missing a few workouts here and there, this one’s for you. Hardcore fitness enthusiasts: Skipping the gym is not the end of the world. Your workout gains aren’t going anywhere. You’re not slacking or backtracking. You’re setting yourself up for a major comeback. Repeat this mantra as needed.

Want to learn how to get away with skipping the gym? How about actually benefiting from your workout breaks? This article covers everything you need to know. 

What Is a Workout Break?

A workout break is a voluntary pause on exercise that typically lasts one to two weeks. When you’re tired, sore, and injured, skipping the gym is a healthy response to your body’s cues.

A workout break is different from weekly rest days. How so? It extends your recovery time, allowing your body to fully heal. This intentional hiatus from your regular fitness routine involves a mix of active and passive recovery days. 

On active recovery days, you may perform low-intensity activities such as walking, stretching, or swimming. On passive recovery days, it’s perfectly acceptable to cozy up in bed, snuggle your fur babies, and binge Netflix. Try keeping your movement to a minimum. 

While this is a challenging task for fitness fanatics, it is doable. Passive recovery days are for relaxing — not squeezing in mini workouts. Let yourself miss the gym!

Woman drinks coffee and relaxes on couch in lieu of going to gym

Why Do People Take Workout Breaks?

People take workout breaks for all sorts of reasons. Top workout destroyers are illness, injury, soreness, exhaustion, excessive stress, and sleep deprivation.

Do you have an overwhelming amount of work or school assignments? What about other priorities requiring your undivided attention? If so, skipping the gym becomes essential. 

Chiropractor and founder of Remedy Place social club Jonathan Leary says, “So many of us are sleep deprived, pushing ourselves all day, with not enough time to recover, which is so bad for long-term health and fitness. A workout break allows your cortisol to reset and gets you out of that chronically stressed state.”

Lack of time, motivation, and confidence can keep you from exercising, while traumatic or unexpected life events require a longer off-period. 

On a lighter note, sometimes you have happy excuses to skip the gym. Vacations, weddings, birthdays, holidays, and other fun social events arise. 

Heck, maybe you just got out of a hair appointment. The last thing you want is to ruin your fresh curls!

What Are the Benefits of Skipping the Gym?

Skipping the gym offers a complete mind-body reset. When you feel run down from exercise, your mental strength weakens. You lose motivation, energy, and enthusiasm.

The same applies to your physical capacity. Working out is only half the process. Training creates microscopic tears in your muscle tissues. Rest breaks are the final piece of the fitness puzzle.

If you don’t make time for recovery between sessions, your muscles, tendons, and ligaments can’t repair themselves.

Young woman eats a healthy bowl

The result? Your joint pain, aches, inflammation, and soreness skyrocket. You’re also more vulnerable to injuries. These keep you on the bench for a lot longer than a week.

Taking time off replenishes the glycogen energy found in your muscles and liver. Glycogen is your body’s hoarded glucose, the primary fuel for your workouts. You get fatigued without it, unable to maintain your desired exercise intensity.

Not only do your muscles heal themselves during a gym break, but they also come back stronger than before. Skipping the gym bolsters your workout performance. It also reduces your risk of injury and resets your depleted willpower.

Signs That You Need To Skip the Gym

Does it feel like your body is rebelling against you? Are you battling low endurance during your workouts? If so, you may need to skip the gym for a few days. 

A mini workout hiatus is necessary when:

  • You dread your workouts.

  • You suffer from persistent soreness.

  • You’ve reached a fitness plateau.

  • You compulsively desire to train (you eat, sleep, and breathe your workouts).

  • You’re constantly sleep-deprived, restless, and struggling with insomnia.

  • You no longer have a passion for fitness and only go through the motions.

  • You lack energy and trudge through every workout.

  • You lose your appetite a lot (stress alters your ghrelin and leptin, hormones that signal hunger and fullness).

  • You get sick more often.

  • Your muscles and joints hurt (and don’t stop hurting).

  • You feel depressed, anxious, and stressed.

  • You’re severely dehydrated.

  • You’re chronically fatigued.

  • You’re badly sunburnt.

Injury is the loudest indicator that you need to skip the gym. Why?

“Pain is a physical sign that something is wrong,” advises physiologist and host of the All About Fitness podcast Pete McCall

McCall adds that if your muscle hurts, “[T]oo much movement can place a lot of stress on the tissue and keep it from properly healing. … Trying to work through muscle pain could cause other parts of the body to become injured, so it’s just not worth it. Let it heal, and if it hurts after more than a few days of rest, then see a doctor.”

Couple relaxes on couch in lieu of going to gym

Signs That You Need To Hit the Gym

What about the flip side? How do you decide between skipping the gym or hitting the gym?

Here’s how to tell when you should exercise:

  • You want to avoid overly-crowded spaces (understandable, but you can still walk, run, hike, or do at-home workouts).

  • You crave confidence.

  • You’re irritable (exercising lets you blow off steam so you don't take your frustrations out on the people in your life).

  • You’re desperate for an energy boost.

  • You get easily winded climbing the stairs or performing other daily activities.

  • You’re working towards a fitness goal (crushing your first marathon or rocking that swimsuit when summertime hits!).

  • You need to escape from reality.

You may feel unmotivated to continue if you’re brand-spanking new to exercising (like everyone was at one point!). The first few weeks are the toughest. Don’t give up. Go to the gym despite your emotions — even if your workouts have to be short and sweet. 

You’re in a pivotal stage of forming a new habit. You must stay disciplined and committed to your fitness goal, especially on the days you don’t feel like it. The longer you’re away from the gym, the harder it is to return. 

Remind yourself that you never regret a good workout. Find an activity you love. Show up, sweat, and be consistent. 

Woman nurses an ankle injury

How Long Should You Skip the Gym?

Skipping the gym looks different for everyone. How long is just right? It depends on your fitness level, training volume, dedication, workout type, presence of injuries, immune system, sex, age, and other factors.

Regardless of where you fall on the above spectrum, breaking for one to two weeks is typically beneficial and often necessary. 

Chiropractor at the LI Spine and Sports Injury Center Gary Olson warns, “If you take off more than two weeks, your muscle’s fibers will start to lose mass, and you will notice it.”

After the 14-day mark, your cardiovascular fitness, lean muscle mass, and insulin sensitivity are prone to decline significantly. These consequences mainly apply to avid gym goers. If you’re incredibly fit and train multiple times a week, you have a lot of muscle and stamina. The more you have, the more you lose.

The good news? The decline eventually stabilizes. You’re less likely to revert back to square one than people who don’t exercise regularly. Even better, you feel stronger upon reuniting with your workouts (as long as your break is less than two weeks). 

Two months? That’s when you lose all your gains and feel “out of shape.”

Remember that your aerobic conditioning, or cardio output, is the easiest to lose. It's also the first thing to go. Ease back into your fitness routine. Let your muscle memory carry you.

The initial sessions seem more challenging than before your hiatus. Try not to mistake this for weakness. Your body adjusts, coming back to full swing in no time!

Fun fact: Most seasoned athletes take one week off every eight to 12 weeks! It’s vital for avoiding muscle trauma and injuries, not to mention fitness burnout. 

When you overtrain and under-recover, you repeatedly exercise in a weakened state. In response, your body shuts down the systems that generate muscle growth and energy production. It resorts to pure survival mode. 

The takeaway? Pushing through pain (not soreness) is a waste of effort. You don’t even reap the rewards you’re working toward!

Young woman meditates on a white bed

How Do You Take a Workout Break?

Taking a workout break is reinvigorating whether it’s a day, a week, two weeks, or somewhere in between. Recovery windows promote mental, emotional, and physical health. 

When do you plan that much-needed week off? Evaluate yourself for signs like boredom, exhaustion, not seeing any progress, and overtraining. 

Reserve a rest period right after a cycle of intense workouts if possible. Take time off for minor injuries. Do your strained muscles and achy joints scream for relief? Gift it to them.

What To Do During Your Time Away

Rest assured (haha, get it?) that you’re still very much allowed to move your body!

While away from the gym, implement light movement, healthy eating, self-care, and self-assessment. 

Light Movement

Avoid muscle atrophy by adding light movement to your daily routine (on active recovery days). Long walks, scenic bike rides, and yoga are great low-impact alternatives to high-intensity workouts. 

Do you own a smartwatch? Track your steps and set daily movement goals. Opt for walking instead of driving or ordering an Uber. Take the stairs instead of elevators. Dance whenever you feel like it.

Did you know that your body manufactures its own happiness? When you move, your brain releases endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. You have full-time access to three instant mood boosters!

Healthy Eating

Eat healthy at least 80 percent of the time. Focus on nutritious foods like lean meats, vegetables, fruits, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Drink six to eight glasses of water each day. Restrict alcohol as much as possible to avoid damaging your liver and hindering your fitness gains. 

Is your workout break doubling as a vacation? Awesome! Indulge in delicious meals reasonably. The best thing to do is limit your sugar intake. Only splurge on desserts once or twice a week. Pick treats because you want them, not because someone else pressures you to eat them.


Use this extra free time to nurture your mental and spiritual health. Get outside and soak up the sun’s rays. Spend time with people who add value to your life. Journal, pray, or meditate thoughtfully. 

Self-care is vital. Schedule a two-hour massage — you deserve it! Invite your best friend to watch a movie marathon, get a mani-pedi, or refresh your hair color. Work on your flexibility and mobility by stretching first thing in the morning. 

Mature woman stretches at home


Reflect on your goals and resolutions for the year. Have you made any progress? What setbacks are you facing? Find solutions and modify your resolutions if needed. Celebrate your wins, no matter how small. Set new goals for an added dose of inspiration.

Self-assessment helps you feel productive in other areas of your life. It also lets you tend to things that you may be unintentionally neglecting.

Finally, take care of urgent matters. Tackle taxes, assignments, deadlines, finances, and other fires that need extinguishing. Now is the perfect time to knock them off your to-do list.

Listen to Your Body

Founder and head trainer of Studio Sweat onDemand Cat Kom says, “The human body is a totally adaptable machine, but it needs time to heal. Cranking it up to the red zone and going full bar every day, all year-round is simply unhealthy, and you can really hurt yourself.” 

“Having good rest periods in your routine is key to your overall health, healing, and progress,” Kom adds. 

Wouldn’t you rather take one voluntary week off than face several involuntary weeks away? 

There’s no shame in utilizing a workout break every once in a while. It doesn’t magically erase all of your hard work. Sometimes it equips you to work harder.

Above all else, rest prevents serious injury, rejuvenates your health, and lets you recommit to your fitness goals with elevated enthusiasm.

Subscribe to Fit&Fab for more fitness, health, and lifestyle information.

Was this article helpful?

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.

Top 3 Stories