Please note that I am not a doctor, and that these opinions are solely based on my own experiences. If you are sick, please make sure to consult with your doctor before working out.
Well guys, it’s officiay plague season. You know what I’m talking about. That time of year when everyone you know has come down with some nasty sounding illness, and you feel like everywhere you turn you’re walking through a cloud of germs. Yea, you know.
My office is currently going through this. Last Friday literally half of our office was out with the same hacking cough/stuffy nose/headache/sinus crap. Meanwhile, I cloroxed the hell out of my office.
But it got me to thinking about working out when sick, and when to draw the line. It’s always such a catch-22: sometimes working out can make you feel a lot better, but boy does it not sound fun!
So I thought I’d explore that today, and share with you some of my experiences of working out when sick.
Obviously the #1 thing you should do before exercising with any kind of illness is to listen to your body. If you’re body is telling you that working out is not a good idea – LISTEN. There is nothing wrong with take a rest day (or a few) to let your body heal. These tips are more for those occasions where you have a mild cold or discomfort and are debating what kind of workout you might be able to manage.
I hate headaches with a passion. Stomach aches I can grit my teeth and deal with. Headaches turn me into a baby. I feel like my brain is turning to mush inside my head.
There are a million different kinds of headaches, so it’s definitely important to listen to what your body (and your head) are telling you. If you’re experiencing any kind of migraine or dizziness, then working out might not be the best option for you.
However, if I just have a mild headache, or especially a stress headache, I find that yoga is always a good option for me. It’s low impact (aka no jumping), helps me focus on my breathing, and helps me to relax. I just try to be aware of my body position and avoid inverted positions. But again, listen to what your body is telling you and go from there.
Stuffy Nose/Head Cold
Stuffy noses are probably the most annoying and inconvenient of all cold symptoms, in my opinion. There is nothing attractive (or professional) about having to blow your nose every 3 seconds and sounding like an old man.
But when it comes to working out, stuffy noses can really be a pain. I know that when I’m dealing with stuffy nose-issue, the last thing I want to do is go for a run (and carry a handkerchief?) or heaven-forbid, go to a yoga class and spend too much time in downward dog. If the stuffy nose has turned into a head cold, anything that involves jumping is also super out of the question.
In these cases, I tend to stick with straight strength training. That way I have a little more control over my movement, and can stop and take a break if I need to wipe my nose. Just make sure that you are conscious about wiping down weights afterwards – no one wants to share your snot!
Similar to a stuffy nose, when I have a cold that’s settled into my chest and turned into a lovely cough, the last thing I want to do is try and run. Or really use my lungs at all.
With any kind of cough, I definitely try to avoid anything that involves getting my heart rate up too high and increasing my breathing. My lungs are already a little bit stressed trying to deal with this cold, the last thing I want is to stress them out even more with heavy breathing.
So if I’m going to do cardio, I tend to stick with something more steady-state (even like a brisk walk) so as not to overstrain my poor lungs. But typically I aim for strength training instead, to give my lungs a little break. Just make sure you still concentrate on your breathing to get enough oxygen to your muscles!
The other thing I like to do if I have a chest cold is yoga! There is such a focus on breathing that you can really give you lungs a chance to open up and relax. However, if you have a bad cough, I might suggest trying this one at home – you don’t want to annoy any other yogis during class with a hacking cough through savasanna!
Stomach Ache/Digestive Issues
This one really comes down to the severity. If you’re feeling like you’re going to be sick, or your digestive system is giving you some serious discomfort (I think you all can guess what I’m implying…), then please take a rest day. Tummy troubles are no joke, and you definitely want to let your system work things out.
However, if you’re just feeling a little bloated, that’s a different story. I have found that for me personally, one of the best things I can do when I’m bloated is cardio, especially running. I don’t know what it is about the movement, but it definitely gets things moving.
I can’t believe I just wrote those words for the whole internet to read. But you know it’s true. Anyone who has experience with running definitely knows what I’m talking about. Sometimes it just takes a little running to get things moving and help your digestive system out.
Plus, I don’t know about you, but the idea of trying to do yoga or squats when I’m bloated just doesn’t sound appealing. Yes, I went there.
Ok, moving on.
This is another one where it is 100% necessary to listen to your body. Body aches can mean that your body is seriously trying to fight something off, and it may be best to take some time to rest while your body takes care of itself.
However, if you’re just feeling slightly under the weather, consider something really low impact, like yoga. Or even just spend some time stretching and allowing your muscles to relax.
This is definitely not the time to push your body too much. There will be plenty of time for that when you’re recovered!
When push comes to shove though, it really comes down to listening to your body. No matter what illness you’re fighting off, now is not the time to push and weight limits or try for a PR. And please, please, if you’re using the gym, PLEASE make sure to wipe everything down thoroughly when you’re done. Ain’t nobody got time for your germs.
So tell me: What are your thoughts on working out when sick? Any suggestions?