Luckily, I don’t get sick very often. But two weeks ago, a nasty virus knocked me on my ass. But me being me, I was determined to not let this sideline me and wanted to continue my routine as usual… including my (somewhat) intense workouts. I have a hard time listening to my body and taking time off from strenuous activity. I’m of the “sweat it out” mind and didn’t want a stupid virus to stop me. After all, I do tend to get a sinus infection or mild respiratory illness once a winter (oddly enough, usually the end of February), and always work out with those ailments. But this was different. I felt like I got hit by a truck… achy muscles and joints, a pounding headache and rumbling tummy (felt like throwing up, but luckily, did not). Still, after resting for one day, I was ready to hit the gym the following day. And that didn’t go as planned… all I could muster was 20 minutes of moderate walking, whereas I usually hit it hard at boot camp class. I was done, and finally gave up. I stayed away from the gym for the next three days, and by the fifth day, I was better and ready to kill it!
You know that if you can’t get off the couch, you can’t make it to the gym. Duh. But what about those days where you’re “functional sick?” Meaning, you have a cold, but can still make it to school or work. Will sweating it out help you recover faster, or make your illness worse? Well, that depends….
First and foremost, listen to your body. If I have just a cold or am “functional sick,” I usually will head to the gym and do an easy workout, skipping my boot camp class in favor of brisk walking or doing the elliptical machine. If you are vomiting and can’t get off the couch, then there’s no question you need to rest.
According to Prevention magazine, you should do a “neck check” before deciding to sweat it out. If all your symptoms are above the neck, like a runny nose, sore throat or headache, it’s usually safe to workout. You just might need to modify your workout and do something less strenuous. If you’re feeling lethargic or low-energy, exercise might just make you feel better. There’s also some evidence that it can help with congestion, too.
If you’re having body aches, diarrhea, extreme fatigue, vomiting or chills, that’s more likely to be something a little more serious than just a cold, so it’s recommended to let your body rest. If you have a fever, it’s also best to skip the gym.
The bottom line is to listen to your body. If it’s just a cold, exercise might make you feel better. And, if you do decide to sweat it out, just exercise until you feel like you can’t… even if it’s just for 10 minutes. But any symptoms that are flu-like, stay home. Don’t stress your immune system. Stay home and let your body recover. A few days off from the gym really won’t affect your fitness level!