You should never be afraid to quit during a workout. Sometimes, the benefits that you will receive for continuing the workout will not outweigh the problems that the workout is causing. Failing a workout, or even a race, does not necessarily need to be a bad thing. You can use a failed workout to plan better for the future and to get the rest that your body probably requires now.

When I was in high school, my coach told me that I should always run through annoyance but not through pain. You are going to most likely be hurting when you are running your last couple of 400 meter repeats, or pushing up your last few reps in a bench press, or finishing a tough basketball practice with wind sprints. This is not really the pain that I am talking about; the whole point of the workout is to break down your body and make it stronger. You are expecting your muscles to burn, and shortly after you stop they will usually stop hurting or will become a much duller ache.

When you are working out and you feel a sharp pain, such as pulling a muscle or breaking a bone, you should stop. When you are out for an easy jog, and your ankle starts to hurt but you have not pulled anything, then you should stop. Your body may be trying to tell you that you are over training, or that you are too tired for a specific activity, or that you are doing something wrong. If you stop earlier rather than later, then you will be much less likely to hurt yourself.

Here is an example of how you can use failure in a workout to lead to greater success with your program as a whole:

This morning I was lifting weights. I started out with squats, which felt fine. On the deadlifts, however, my back was bothering me. I only did 12 (of 15) reps the first set, and knocked the weight back 20 pounds. After 6 reps on the second set, I decided that it was not worth continuing. The rest of the workout was also going to rely upon using my back, and I would rather miss one workout this week than miss 6 or 7 workouts over the next 2 weeks.

I have been working out 3 times per week in the gym lately, and I have already decided to keep that schedule. I had been considering moving from a Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule to a Monday/Tuesday/Thursday/Friday schedule to get a 4th workout in each week, and today’s failure reinforces my earlier decision not to switch to 4 days.

This is also my off season, so it is not worth pushing myself and threatening my ability to start running again in the next week or two. While lifting weights is an important part of my conditioning, it is not the most important part. The big picture sees moving from a primarily weight training base to a primarily running base over the next couple of months, with some swimming thrown in to liven things up.

I have been pushing myself pretty hard lately, and my body is telling me that it needs some rest. I fully expect that Monday’s workout will go as planned, and that next Wednesday I will no longer have a painful back when I next do the exercises that were slated for today.

Do not be afraid to quit. Do not use it as an excuse not to get your work in, but pushing yourself through failure is rarely the way to become and remain competitive. Instead, pushing yourself to the point of failure, backing off, and then coming back stronger than before is a better plan of action. If you find yourself quitting every workout, then you are either following too demanding of a schedule or else you are not giving yourself a chance to succeed.

My advice here is not to give you another excuse to skip a workout or to take it easy. It is just important to know that an occassional failure can fit into a healthy training regimen and does not mean that your world is about to end. Be sure to use your failures as a guage for how you are doing, and to plan accordingly.