We’ve all wanted to bail on a workout at one point or another—whether it’s treadmill speedwork, a strenuous boot camp, or a tough yoga class that challenges our limits. But how do you know when you should push through or rest child’s pose? And is your decision a strategic shutdown to prevent injury, or are you just being a workout wimp? Three experts weigh in.
Take Your Vital Signs
Trainer Mary Ann Browning, founder of Brownings Fitness and a master motivator, uses a straightforward checklist to determine a client’s heartiness: “I use a heart rate monitor, and I ask their perceived exertion,” she explains. “I start a session by asking ‘What did you eat so far? And how did you train and eat the day before?’ If a client did a large workout the day before or ate too much…or they ate nothing, all these factors guide me.” Browning is a realist from the Jillian Michaels’ school of tough love and keeps in mind that most clients underestimate what they can do.
Being honest with yourself is just as important as being honest with your trainer, says Lacey Stone of Lacey Stone Fitness, who’s well known for pushing her trainees outside their comfort zone.
Her measuring stick of whether you can press on? “You should be fully recovered in two minutes or less,” she says. “If you’re still huffing and puffing or if you can’t go again, you may have pushed yourself past the point.”
Differentiating between a serious situation and normal fatigue is also essential. Stone points out that discomfort in your limbs is fine, while discomfort in the joints calls for stopping. An endorphin rush is rad; dizziness is not. And if your head tells you no, but your body is rested and ready, “Bring it,” she says.
Practice Mind Over Matter
Building that level of stamina takes more than muscle power—it takes a healthy dose of mental toughness as well. Most fitness experts agree that people tend to lack confidence when it comes to what they’re physically capable of and build boundaries that prevent them from progressing.
“So many of us are in the habit of limiting ourselves,” says Jenny Gammello, a vinyasa instructor at New York Yoga. “I believe that the physical limitations we sometimes feel have to do more with emotional fears,” says Gammello.
Fear is a huge factor that influences when to push on and when to take an early savasana. But it’s not the only one. “When I offer an advanced variation in class I always say, ‘If you’re hungry for more,’” Gammello explains. “And that’s just it—some days you are and some you aren’t.” —Ingrid Skjong