You’re (really) tired
Regardless of whether it’s mental or physical, feeling excessively fatigued is a sure sign that skipping the workout and catching up on some rest is in your best interest. If you constantly feel tired throughout the day and/or you’re having trouble sleeping, it may be a sign that you’re overtraining and your body is trying to let you know that it needs a break. CrossFit workouts are focused on high intensity training, and your body is exposed to a large amount of stress through having to move heavy external loads repeatedly. In order to recover from that kind of demand, your body and mind needs time to recover. Of course, the reason for your fatigue may not be related to previous workouts but other factors that are causing you to feel anxious and stressed. Relationships, work and poor diet can all cause inflammation and raise your heart rate and blood pressure—all of which negatively impact your sleep and make you fatigued. So, if you’re feeling exhausted, how well do you think you’ll be able to perform in a workout? If anything you’ll do pretty poorly, feel crap about the whole situation and become even more tired and stressed. So do yourself a favor, and stay home.
You’re in pain
There’s a BIG difference from a little bit of soreness that can be alleviated with dedicated mobility, and feeling so uncomfortable that you can barely move. When your range of motion is severely compromised due to excessive soreness and pain, it’s time to skip the workout. For one thing, people forget that muscles repair themselves and grow in the periods when you’re not working out. So if you’re constantly creating microscopic tears in the muscle fibers through resistance work (without taking a break), how can you expect your muscles to recover and become stronger? You can’t—and that’s what makes athletes who refuse to take a day off weak and constantly in pain. Besides, if you can barely execute an air squat without wincing, what makes you think you’ll be able to complete an entire WOD? If you insist on getting some type of work in, make it low intensity, low impact work to help ease soreness and speed up your recovery.
You have a competition the next day
This one seems obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many CrossFit athletes feel as depraved as a recovering junkie if they can’t get their fix of fitness—even if that means working out the day before a big competition. It’s just not smart. Wouldn’t you rather feel rested and ready to tackle any workout rather than feeling tired and sore? Imagine it like this. The night before 15.5 of the 2015 Open (27-21-15-9 of row (calories) and thrusters
(95/65)) you decide to get in some squat work, because, why not? Well, the next day you had already picked your slot to do 15.5, and lo and behold that leg-destroyer of a workout turns up. Problem is, your quads and entire posterior chain is still recovering from the previous day’s squat work. Yep—you’re screwed.
Even though regular exercise and proper nutrition are proven to boost our immune systems, sometimes we can’t avoid the inevitable, and we end up getting sick. Be it the flu, a stomach bug or the common cold, getting sick can be a pain in the ass, and make athletes wonder if it’s in their best interest to get out of bed and head to the box. In such situations, one should perform the ‘neck check’. The neck check is a common test that doctors and athletic trainers recommend athletes perform when determining whether they should work out or not. Essentially, if your symptoms are above the neck (sore throat, runny nose, sneezing), you are (probably) ok to work out. However, Dr. Lewis G. Maharam, author of “Running Doc’s Guide to Healthy Running”, states that if you’re running a fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit (38.3 degrees Celsius) or higher, it’s best to not exercise. That’s because when you work out, your body heat starts to rise. But if you start exercising with a body temperature that’s already elevated, your body struggles to cool you down naturally, and proteins start to break down in the kidneys or liver.
Any symptoms you may be experiencing below the neck—upset stomach, difficulty breathing, achy chest—are signs that you should not exercise at all. Working out will only cause you to lose more bodily fluid from an already depleted source, leading to severe dehydration, dizziness, a rapid heartbeat, and even fainting. With such symptoms, your immune system is already in a weakened state, and your body needs all the energy it has to fight off harmful pathogens and recover.
You’re recovering from an injury
This is a tricky one, because the scalability of CrossFit programming allows an athlete to substitute movements so that they don’t exacerbate an existing injury. However, if you’re coming off of surgery and you know that any sort of multi-joint movement is going to compromise your recovery, swallow your pride and take a rest day (or more). Work with your coach to figure out a good schedule that allows you to workout (scaling if needs be) and rest so that you don’t die of boredom, but avoid injuring yourself again.
Photo courtesy of Erwin Van Leeuwen/CC BY NC ND 2.0