Push or Pass: A FitFreak's Guide to Knowing When to Stop or Keep Going

Especially when you first start working out, not listening to your mind can be a pivotal part of making strides toward that stronger, healthier body. After all, this is the same mind that keeps telling you you’ll start training tomorrow (even though it knows you can get 30 days of Sweatflix for free, now). It’s the same mind that registers a little muscle burn and laboured breathing after a couple flight of stairs and tells you you’re too out of shape. Working out is for other people. More naturally fit people.

News flash: no one is naturally fit. We are all born weak and virtually defenceless. But we all have the natural ability to get fit, just like we did as infants when we grew, got stronger and faster and more balanced: by trying, by failing, and by trying again.

However, unlike when we were children, the growing doesn’t have to be quite as painful. Don’t get us wrong; there’s going to be pain, but if you actually pay attention to the advice we’re about to throw down and listen to your body, it’s not the sort of pain that will result in a trip to the hospital and members of your baseball team signing a cast. It’s going to be the sort of pain that’s fleeting, and leads to an even stronger body — not a broken one.

Keep reading. These simple tips will show you how to listen to your body so you know when to push on in your training, or when to pass.

PUSH: Embrace the Burn

That burning pain you feel when you’re 30 seconds into a killer HIIT interval of pogo touchdowns: that’s the good stuff! That’s the lactic acid burn that means that your muscles are working hard, and getting stronger. When you feel that burn, keep pushing until you simply can’t anymore.

Pogo Touchdowns!

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This said, if you are doing an exercise and feel sharp or stabbing pain, stop immediately. This is not the positive stress of muscle growth, but usually a sign you’re doing something wrong. Revisit your form and make sure you’re nailing the fundamentals. If you’re not sure you are, you can always take a video of yourself doing the move and post it on our Insider Group on Facebook. Your loving and NEVER judgy #FitFam will help you perfect your form.

And speaking of form...

PASS: Form Fail

One of the most obvious ways your body will tell you it’s at its limit is sloppy form. Your knees will start buckling inward in your squats. Your hips will start sagging toward the floor in your push-ups or planks. When you do dips, your shoulders will start encroaching on your neck space. Sometimes, form will slip because you’re simply not focussed. So, before you throw in the towel, make sure you are concentrating. If you are honed in, however, and still can’t maintain proper, safe form, it’s time to either modify the exercise to make it easier, or stop altogether if you’ve got absolutely nothing left.

PUSH: Breathing Heavy

If you’re working hard, you’re going to be breathing faster. That’s normal. However, you should always be able to breathe. If you’re working out and are struggling to take full breaths  — if you are taking short, jagged breaths — then you need to back off. While intense training like HIIT does not rely mainly on oxygen to fuel movement, but is fueled anaerobically (i.e. through the transformation of glucose to lactate with limited oxygen) breathing is still essential.

Important: if you're feeling dizzy, be sure to back off and make sure you are breathing properly. When exercise gets intense, we often hold our breath, which can cause a dramatic rise in blood pressure, followed by a sudden drop in blood pressure. This phenomenon is called the Valsalva effect, and it can result not only in feeling woozy, but even fainting. So, pay attention to your breath!

PASS: Puke City

No way around it: feeling like you’re gonna yarf on your Asics is a sign you’re working hard. One reason for workout induced nausea is because when you workout intensely, blood is diverted away from your stomach. Feeling nauseated can also be a sign that you’ve drank too much water.

You don’t have to stop, entirely, but you may have to dial back the intensity of your workout. Instead of doing those Pogo Touchdowns on the Balance Trainer, take out the bouncing and just do standard squats.

In the end, listening to your body means just that: getting your head out of the way and really honing in on the physical tells to determine if you should pass, or load up that BodyBar, hop on your Balance Trainer, and push on. (Remember, for a limited time, you can get the Balance Trainer for FREE with purchase of the BodyBar! Get ‘em now!) Whatever you do, don’t let your mind tell your body it can’t do something. Give it a chance. Your body will probably surprise you!

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