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When NOT to Train

Updated: Nov 20, 2023

While commitment and mental toughness are characteristics of high performers, sometimes these traits can have a negative impact on performance if they cause you to never take a break.


This month, we have focused our blog content on the importance of working on yourself this off-season. While this is crucial for entering the pre-season as fit and ready as possible (and hopefully with some more technical skills in your arsenal!), we’re going to offer a different perspective to think about today. There is a common saying that ‘you never regret a training session’, but we believe that this is false. While the sentiment behind this saying is that, more often than not, you will be happy that you trained after doing so (even if you were really dreading it beforehand), there are scenarios where this idea is not conducive to optimal performance. Below, we delve into some of these.

Injury or Illness

If you're experiencing an injury or illness that affects your ability to engage in training safely or perform at your usual level, it is generally recommended to skip training until you have sufficiently recovered. Exercising while injured or sick can worsen the condition or delay the healing process. This is particularly important in the off-season, as you want to try your best to not carry a niggle into pre-season. There are a few exceptions to this ‘rule’, so refer to your physiotherapist (or other relevant professional) for recommendations specific to your injury.

Jack Wilshere injured.

Lack of Sleep

Adequate rest and recovery are essential for optimal performance and overall health. If you're experiencing severe fatigue or haven’t slept well, it may be wise to prioritise rest and allow your body to recuperate. Training in a fatigued state can increase the risk of injury and hinder progress.

Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

Intense exercise can cause muscle soreness, known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). While mild-to-moderate muscle soreness is normal, extreme soreness that affects your range of motion or ability to perform exercises properly may warrant a day or two of rest. This is particularly of concern during the off-season as your body is getting back into shape. Think of how sore your muscles can be after that first session back in the gym. This (DOMS) can affect you for up to 72 hours afterwards, so it would be smart to ensure you don’t do anything excessive (e.g., sprinting) in the days following such a session.

Progressive overload graph.

This graphic shows how fitness improves over time when training sessions are spaced appropriately. If you don’t allow for recovery between session one and the next session, you run the risk of not improving over time and possibly getting injured.

Stressful Periods

Stress affects the body both physically and mentally. During periods of exceptionally high stress, such as work deadlines, personal crises, or major life events, it may be wise to temporarily reduce training intensity or take a short break to avoid adding additional stress to your system. Stress can also affect sleep quantity and quality, so it is definitely important to be mindful of your training load when going through particularly stressful periods.


To recap, training isn’t always the correct thing to do on a given day. If you experience any of the scenarios laid out in this article, be mindful of your training and keep a long-term perspective regarding your fitness and goals. The last thing you want is to overdo it and cause injury that could have been avoided.

If you want supplemental football training to improve as a footballer, or to train with us this off-season, reach out to our team of expert coaches at [email protected] to get started.

All the best!

Patrick Elliott, BSc, MPH

Health and Nutrition Science Communication Officer at Training121

Health Disclaimer: this article is for informational and educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional advice. For health advice, speak to a physician or other qualified health-care professional, and for nutrition advice, speak to a qualified nutrition professional (e.g., registered dietitian). The use of information on this site is solely at your own risk.

Technical Terms

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS): This is the muscular discomfort or pain that typically develops after engaging in strenuous or unaccustomed exercise. The soreness is usually felt within 24–48 hours after the exercise session, although it can peak at around 72 hours and gradually subside thereafter. It is thought to be primarily caused by eccentric (muscle-lengthening) exercises, e.g., downhill running, and is the result of micro tears to the muscles.

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