Training When You’re Sick
Your nose is running and your temperature is high: should you keep training when you’re sick ?
Listen: everybody gets sick from time to time. No matter how healthy your general lifestyle is, we’re all susceptible to colds and fevers. However, feeling under the weather shouldn’t mean that your fitness goals go out the window. Here are some thoughts on how to let yourself heal while still maintaining your wellness goals.
Movement versus working out
If you’re taking part in a program like the New You Challenge, you’re adhering to a fairly stringent and rigorous workout routine. The emphasis is on working hard and pushing yourself to an acceptable level of challenge and discomfort. This creates a stress reaction in the body. In general, the body can adapt and become more fit and strong as you continue your routine.
However, when you’re feeling sick, this same stress can be tough on the immune system. But contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t mean that you should simply stay in bed and go into “rest and relax” mode. Actually, some low impact movement might help you get better faster.
Now, when I say “low impact movement” I don’t mean a big cardio routine. I’m talking about walking, yoga, or biking. These forms of movement are less likely to compromise the immune system. The increased circulation and minimal heart rate elevation may even offer benefits that can hasten your recovery time.
What about HIT?
Slow movement is all well and good, but many of you are probably thinking “will that deliver results?”. Many people don’t want to lose the progress they’ve gained via High Intensity Training (HIT).
Basically, it boils down to this simple idea: listen to your body.
You can engage in a more vigorous exercise session, but approach it with a sense of safety and limitation. For instance, instead of doing five reps of an exercise, you might do one or two. If you keep your activity moderate and feeling safe, it can have the same effect as the lighter impact activities above.
However, you never want to take things too far when you’re feeling unwell. If you exercise too vigorously while you’re sick, it can have the opposite effect, diminishing your immune system and keeping you sick longer. This can keep you sick longer! So, believe it or not, taking your workouts somewhat easy can actually help you work toward your fitness goals in a better and safer way than pushing it.
Ultimately, your body must be your guide. Obviously if you’re vomiting and running a high fever, more gentle movement is going to be more helpful (and feasible) for your body than more high intensity exercise!
While there can be some benefits to training while sick, another thing to think about is the health and safety of others.
Working out at a crowded gym while you’re coughing and sneezing is not only disruptive, but it’s rude to others. Just because you want to maintain your fitness routine doesn’t mean that you need to put others at risk! Adapting your workout for home may be a good idea for a few days until you’re less symptomatic.
Can working out too much make you sick?
Did working out too much to begin with make you sick? Overtraining or overexercising can actually put stress on the immune system, which can actually make you get sick more.
Basically, the idea is that you want to hit that perfect “Goldilocks” territory in your workout routine. Too little workout out means that you won’t have a strong immune system. Too much working out means that you’ll be stressing out your immune system and it could be frazzled and more susceptible to illness. As you establish a workout routine and learn to truly listen to your body’s cues, you’ll learn how hard you can push yourself without overdoing it.
Taking proactive steps
As you progress in the New You Challenge or any fitness routine, you may notice that over time, you get sick less.
This is because moderate to intense exercise, when practiced consistently, can strengthen the immune system. It’s important to note, though, that this is a progressive adaptation. Basically, you won’t see heightened immune function two days into a workout routine, but you will as the weeks and months progress.
Sticking with a workout routine over time and training hard while you feel healthy will ultimately help strengthen your immune system, so that you will get sick less. Let this be motivation to stick to your routine and to challenge yourself!
Unfortunately, there’s not a one-size-fits all option when it comes to training when you’re sick. However, there are distinct benefits that movement can offer the body while suffering from illness. By listening to your body and taking intuitive movements and an adapted workout schedule, you can stick to your fitness goals and help your body heal.
Do you work out while sick?