What to do when my head says yes but my legs says no?

Exhausted woman resting after running with her coach

Why Your Legs Might Be Telling You to Skip a Run (and What to Do About It)

We’ve all been there before – it’s a beautiful day outside, you have the time, and you’re feeling motivated to go for a run. But then you start your warmup, and something feels off. Your legs feel heavy, you’re not breathing easily, and you just generally feel lousy. Suddenly, the thought of running for even five minutes seems impossible. So what to do when my head says yes but my legs says no?

1. Listen to your body.

If your legs are feeling more fatigued than usual or you’re having trouble catching your breath, it’s probably best to err on the side of caution and take a rest day. Pushing yourself too hard when your body is already tired can lead to pain, injury or burnout, none of which are fun. If you’re really itching to get in a workout, try something low-impact like walking or biking instead. This should help with your nervous system becoming agitated and your overall mental health being affected for the day ahead.

2. Make sure you’re properly fueled.

Before heading out for a run, make sure you’ve eaten enough, but not too much, food. Eating a big meal right before a run can make you feel sluggish, but running on an empty stomach can lead to cramps or lightheadedness. A small snack that contains both carbohydrate and protein – think half a banana with peanut butter or a small handful of trail mix will give you the energy you need without being too heavy.

3. Check your equipment.

Sometimes the reason your legs are telling you to skip a run has nothing to do with how tired you are – it could be because of what you’re wearing! If your shoes are more than six months old or have more than 500 miles on them, they might be the culprit behind nagging pains or injuries. Additionally, make sure your clothes are comfortable and not too tight; otherwise, they’ll just end up chafing midrun. These issues are all a quick fix and nothing that will hold you back for too long.


There will be days when no matter how badly you want to go for a run, your legs just won’t cooperate, you won’t even want to make eye contact with anyone and inside your head, even your brain is telling you to run but at the same time that your legs are not actually willing.

But by listening to your body, eating properly, and making sure your equipment is in good shape, you can hopefully avoid those days altogether!


Should I get checked out by a doctor if my symptoms remain or reocur?

If symptoms reocur over the coming days however, and your body language shows signs of continued fatigue, look to refer yourself to a doctor who will more than likely then run blood tests accordingly.

How can I avoid getting injured or burned out?

Peer reviewed studies show that those who listen to their body and take rest days when needed are less likely to get injured or burned out.

Is there a registered charity that can help?

There are many charities that can help suppport with symptoms of fatigue, some of which are listed below.

  • The National Sleep Foundation
  • The American Academy of Sleep Medicine
  • The National Center for Fatigue & Fibromyalgia
  • Fatigue: Can’t shake the feeling? Get moving! (Mayo Clinic)
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) – Causes, symptoms and treatments (NHS Choices)
  • Coping with fatigue (Multiple Sclerosis Society)

Are there any triggers that may cause fatigue?

An example for most people in realtion to triggers can be things such as life, stress, feelings, anxiety and simply everyday trouble.

How do blood vessels get affected by stress?

The symptoms of stress can manifest in many ways, and one way it can affect the body is by constricting blood vessels. This process is mediated by the release of the hormone norepinephrine in response to stress. Norepinephrine binds to receptors on the smooth muscle cells that make up the walls of blood vessels, causing them to contract. This narrowing of the blood vessels results in increased blood pressure and decreased blood flow to other parts of the body. In some cases, this can lead to headaches, dizziness, and other symptoms.

In addition to constricting blood vessels, stress also increases the heart rate and can lead to an increase in the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. These changes can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems.

What are some tips to manage stress?

There are many different ways to manage stress, and what works for one person may not work for another. Some general tips include:

Identifying and avoiding triggers: Try to identify the things that trigger your stress and do your best to avoid them.

Staying positive: It may sound cliché, but maintaining a positive attitude can help you better cope with stressful situations.

And how does stress affect the brain and nervous system?

The stress response is a natural, physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived threat. The body releases hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which prepare the body for the “fight-or-flight” response. This increases heart rate and blood pressure, and redirects blood flow to the muscles and away from the digestive system and other non-essential body systems.

In the short term, this stress response can be beneficial, as it can help us to respond quickly and effectively to a dangerous situation. However, when the stress response is constantly triggered by everyday life events, it can lead to chronic stress. Chronic stress can have a negative impact on our mental and physical health, and can contribute to conditions such as anxiety, depression, and cardiovascular disease.

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