Should You Work Out When You're Sick?



Let me tell you about when I’m feeling under the weather.


Depending on the day, I’m either kicking and screaming that I can’t work out…


...or I’m being the biggest drama queen ever about it so I can use it as an excuse to not work out.


There’s literally no in-between.


But, just because you’ve got a stuffy nose doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t do any sort of exercise...which is bad news for the drama queen side of me.


With the COVID-19 threat still in full swing, I wanted to talk about something we always wonder when we’re not feeling well...is it safe to work out?


Actually, some physicians say that working out can even help you get over a sickness sooner. However, there are definitely situations when you should definitely not be getting your sweat on.


Let’s take a look.

When It’s Okay to Work Out


If you just have a simple, common cold, exercise can actually be a part of your recovery process as it can help clear up congestion by opening your airways. If you don’t have any symptoms below your neck (so, sneezing is okay, but you can’t have trouble breathing or chest pains) you’re okay to train.


Just make sure you get in plenty of fluids and you stay alert to any worsening symptoms. Also, don’t go balls blazing and start deadlifting 400 pounds right out of the gate. Just start at a lower intensity than you normally would to gauge how you feel.


If you go too intense you can make yourself worse.


Also, if you just feel like total shit, even if you don’t have below-the-neck symptoms...please don’t work out. Be smart. I don’t need ya’ll passing out in the gym on me.

When It’s Totally NOT Okay to Work Out


Okay, you athletes. I know you better than the average person. That means I know you have an obsession with muscling through pain.


But, as mentioned before, if you’re having breathing issues, feel weak, have painful muscles, a tummy ache or are feeling nauseous...you need to get over it.

Tough love, I know. It’s how I operate.


All of these symptoms are pointing to signs that you are just not functioning at a high enough level to be able to exercise and you can seriously hurt your health by trying.


If you can’t keep liquids down that’s also cause for the red light. No liquids means inadequate hydration which we know by now has a pretty underestimated impact on performance.


In that vein, if you’re running a fever...STAY HOME. Not only is this a COVID-19 symptom, but is generally not conducive for workouts.


If your core body temperature is high enough for a fever, it’s high enough for you to be at risk for overheating and dehydration.


This is so dangerous for your body! Overheating will make your symptoms worse and you can even pass out...which doesn’t really set you up for your gym crush.


Overheating also causes fatigue and muscle weakness which just generally makes your grueling, sick trip to the gym a waste of time.

How to Keep Yourself Safe While Working Out When Sick


If you do decide to be an overachiever, here's some tips to keep you from overdoing it.

Don’t go all out


You’re not setting any PRs with a cold, love. And if you’re trying to get points for doing so...let’s get together and reassess your priorities.


So chill.


Don’t try to lift heavy, but just enough to load your muscles and get a bit of a pulse pumping. Only you can assess what’s a low intensity for you, but that’s the best course to take while you’re sick. If you’re still meh about lifting and aren’t completely comfortable with it, try some steady-state cardio.


For most people, this means a brisk pace on the treadmill or elliptical. Even better would be a light jog outdoors as the fresh air could do your sinuses some good.

Foam roll


Now, if you do have below-the-neck symptoms or you don’t and you’re still not super comfortable with a full-on workout, take this time to foam roll and stretch.


I know it’s not the sexiest recommendation, but you guys know how much I preach about foam rolling and, honestly, when you’re sick is probably the best time to force yourself to get your body limber.


Not only is it better than doing nothing and can keep you from losing your mind if you are having gym withdrawals, but when you’re fully recovered and ready to get back at it your muscles are gonna be nice and ready.

Don’t forget to hydrate


Not only is proper hydration great for maintaining the immune system, but you can lose fluids a lot faster when you’re sick and the symptoms of dehydration just make you feel like even more of a trash bag.


Not ideal for crushing a workout.


Also, a workout will just make you more dehydrated if you aren’t paying attention to your fluids and our goal to make you feel better, not worse.

The bottom line? I don’t think I have to say this, but if you have COVID...please don’t go to the gym. Even with a mask, the risk for others is too great.


Don’t be a dick. Stay home.


If not, though, you should be all good to workout as long as you listen to your body and don’t have any below-the-neck symptoms. Just stay safe and go slow.

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Make the gym look forward to you.