In the middle of cold and flu season, I get tons of people asking me if they should bother working out when they’re sick, or if they should put their exercise on hold until they are completely symptom free.
Number one… listen to your body. If you feel like you’re ready to die, stay in bed, rest, drink fluids etc… You’ve got to really tune into how you feel and, ultimately, you make the call.
On the other hand, sometimes a bit of activity will help to make you feel better. If you do choose to exercise, the intensity level and the duration of your workout should be taken down a notch.
Unless you are Michael Jordan trying to win the NBA Championship while sick with the flu… slow down a bit.
Another way to decide whether to train or not is the location of your symptoms. If you’re sick “above the neck” (sore throat, mild headache, stuffy nose), as long as you aren’t “dying”, a bit of mild exercise might make you feel better. You probably won’t make things worse. Just keep in mind that your recovery ability is compromised, so don’t push too hard.
If your symptoms are “below the neck” (chest congestion, stomach ache, diarrhea etc…), do NOT work out. These are signals from your body to take a break. Chances are that doing a workout will slow recovery and make you more sick. The “tincture of time” is what is needed here. Treat your symptoms, rest and let your body heal itself.
If you have a fever, do NOT workout. An elevated temperature is already putting you at risk for dehydration. It simply doesn’t make any sense to push yourself in this state.
So, I guess the best advice is to err on the side of good judgement. Don’t wimp out every time you have a tickle in your throat, but, don’t try to be a hero when you can barely stand without the room spinning.
Unless you are Michael Jordan and it’s game 7.