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How Drunk is Too Drunk to Work Out?

Leave me alone. I’m totally fine to squat these 500 pounds

Okay, so you knocked back a few too many at the Outback Steakhouse while enjoying your post-work prime rib, and you very responsibly ordered an Uber to cart you home. After drinking a quick glass of water and delivering a little bit of artificial stimulation to your system via a cup of coffee, you glance at the clock and notice that you’ve still got three hours before your gym closes down for the evening. 

You’ve already fallen off of one wagon tonight, and you don’t want to fall off of yet another, so you muster up the motivation to sober up and carefully walk down to your neighborhood gym. The problem is, you realize that your motivation to train may be the result of a rare form of liquid courage that could be sending you to your doom under the guise of self-improvement. Still, you desperately want to go to the gym and workout. But should you?

Yeah! When do you know if you’re too drunk to exercise?

Whew! If you asked that question hoping for a simple answer, you came to the wrong place. As Mahershala Ali’s Cottonmouth would say, we’re going to break it all the way down and let it be broke.

This is one of those cases where we need to be very careful about defining each word: “too,” “drunk” and “exercise.” In fact, defining those words in reverse order will probably be the most logical path to arriving at a productive response to this conundrum.

Let’s start by defining exercise in the loosest, most relatable sense of the word. If someone walks on the treadmill for an hour at a casual pace, is it exercise? Sure. I wouldn’t go quite so far as to refer to it as “training” because that typically involves preparation and progression toward a desired goal or ideal physical state. However, if your mission for the evening is to accelerate the burn off of those pesky alcohol calories, walking on a treadmill will allow you to make some headway toward achieving that end. 

I suppose if you can manage to stagger your way through a bar crawl, or rudely congest traffic while you propel yourself through the streets on a pedal pub, then you can hop aboard a treadmill, elliptical or exercise bike and still be semi-productive even if you’re mildly drunk.

It’s when we start talking about lifting weights in conjunction with the other two words where things begin to get dicey.

Okay, let’s talk about lifting weights. 

Sure, and let’s do it in the context of analyzing the word “drunk.” When you think about the effects of alcohol on your body, you’ll probably notice that your balance is among the first things that completely goes to pieces when the impairment begins to set in. If you lose your balance and stumble to the ground while you’re locked arm-in-arm with your friends belting out “Piano Man” at a wedding, that’s one thing. It would be another thing entirely to stagger around in an off-kilter fashion while supporting hundreds of pounds on your shoulders at the squat rack. 

Clearly, when you’re inebriated, the last thing you want to be responsible for is the damage you’re likely to cause to both property and person while you’re ferrying a bunch of heavy weight through space.

Are you telling me I can’t lift weights if I’m barely drunk?

I certainly wouldn’t dare to make the trip to the gym if I knew a morning hangover was imminent, but this is you we’re talking about, and I’m not here to pass judgement.

Honestly, if I thought I had a few decent, relatively coordinated lifts in me, I’d borrow a tactic I learned from Gunnar Peterson and wholeheartedly devote myself to having a machine day in the gym. I’d make sure I stuck exclusively with machines that required pin-selector mechanisms, and I wouldn’t even trust myself to lift a single weight plate. 

This isn’t to say that it’s impossible to injure yourself if the plane of movement is completely fixed by the machine, because it certainly is. However, I’d at least do what I could to limit my potential to effectuate a catastrophic injury to myself or others by dropping 100 or more pounds on top of myself, or on top of someone else. It’s not like it takes very much loose weight dropped on a foot or another appendage to do severe damage to it. 

That makes sense. So what about the word “too”?

Well, if you need to drive to the gym and know that you shouldn’t, you’re too drunk to go to the gym. If you think it’s a good idea to jump into a body of water (pool or otherwise), you’re too drunk to exercise. And most of all, if the temperature is below freezing but you still feel like heading outside, you’re too drunk for a stroll, let alone a workout.