How You Can Remain Active When You Miss Workouts

A Marine swims laps at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina.
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kevin Johnson, a data systems administrator with Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 2, swims laps at the Mainside Pool, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, Nov. 3, 2021. (Sgt. Christian J. Lopez/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Over the past month, we have had a few members of our local workout group miss workouts for various reasons, including illness, having wisdom teeth pulled and laser eye surgery. These are legitimate reasons to miss workouts, but you still can do something to help yourself with other aspects of fitness and health before you return to your routine. 

Sleep = Recovery

As you know, the workout is not what makes you stronger; it's the recovery. On days of limited to no-fitness activity, focusing on sleep should be your priority. The Importance of Sleep cannot be stressed enough, especially if you are in or training for high-stress professions such as military, police, Special Ops or firefighting.

Sleep is our number one natural recovery mechanism. It helps us not only to recover from hard physical activity and stressful work days, but also to deal with illness and medical procedures. Get your sleep. Limit it to no longer than 10-12 hours a night and get up and move if you can.

Even if all you can do is sit in a chair, get out of the bed. This will help with not disrupting your sleep the following night.

Move if You Can

If you can do something, do it. If you are ill, your ability to exercise will be limited. Even walking may be challenging, but stretching and doing some mobility work is not out of the question. A simple light stretch of the back, hips and hamstrings can be done in bed or while sitting in a chair.

If you can move around, get on the floor and go through as many joint, limb and core stretches as you can think of. If you need some ideas, look for some mobility YouTube videos for the entire body or certain body parts (especially if you are limited to mobility due to a broken limb, etc.).

If you can spend 30-45 minutes of your recovery day doing some form of mobility work, you will enjoy feeling great afterward.

Mobility Videos

Non-Impact Options

An injury sometimes prevents you from running or rucking, but you still may be able to do cardio workouts even if they're biking, rowing, elliptical gliding or swimming. You can do many different style workouts with these events. If you do not use these workouts normally, here are some ideas for you:

Bike, elliptical, rowing: Tabata Intervals require you to do 20 seconds of full-speed sprints, then 10 seconds at an easy recovery speed. Repeat for 5-7 minutes. Try Tabata intervals for seven minutes, then do a three-minute moderate pace recovery speed for a total of 10 minutes. Repeat the 10-minute set 3-4 times for a 30- to 40-minute workout.

Swimming: You may have to limit swimming with fins, depending on the injury. Treading water, aqua jogging or just swimming laps until you have to rest is a great way to get some cardio if you have a leg injury. Now if you normally are used to swimming but are recovering from a laser eye procedure, you will have to replace your normal swim workout since you cannot be in the water for two weeks after any eye surgery. 

The above nonimpact options are great replacements for swimming.  Don't stop moving just because you cannot run or swim. Usually you can do one or the other.

Stay Hydrated and Well-Fed

It is really easy to sleep so much that you miss out on normal fluid and nutritious food intake. If there ever is a time to eat healthy, it is now. Drinking water with electrolytes regularly through the day will cause you to get up more often and use the bathroom, but staying on top of your hydration will help you feel normal (less sluggish, headaches, body aches, etc.). While you are up, move. Take advantage of the time up and about and stretch at the very least.

After your convalescence is over, if you can say you ate, drank, stretched, slept well and did something physical, you will not feel like you missed out on so much when you start up your normal workouts again.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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