To workout or not to workout: What to do when you are sick

It’s that time of year—the grab sick-dogthe immune boosting vitamins, pull out the tissue paper and decongestant medicine, and everyone at your office including you are sick—time of year. Last week I was sick. The first couple days I could barely get off the couch. I had the worst headache I’ve ever experienced and overall just felt awful. Being sick is the worst, especially when you’re a workout-aholic. By day three I had to workout even though I still felt pretty awful. Which got me to thinking, what are the best workouts for when you are sick? And, maybe more importantly, should you even workout when you are sick?

The general rule of thumb of if you should workout is the “neck rule.” If you have above the neck symptoms—headache, nasal congestion, runny nose, minor sore throat—you’ve got the go ahead. If you have below the neck (flu-like) symptoms—widespread muscle aches/pains, chest congestion, nausea, fever, fatigue—you should skip your workout and rest up.

Best exercises for when you are sick:

  1. Walking—deepens your breathing which helps open plugged sinus passages.
  2. Jogging—it is a natural decongestant.
  3. Yoga—gentle stretching may help relieve aches and pains related to colds and sinus infections.

Modify the intensity and duration of your workout by half your regular routine and adjust based on how your body feels. Take it slow so not to worsen your symptoms and if you start feeling dizzy, nauseated or weak, stop what you are doing and rest your body longer.

The important takeaways: Take a few days off, decrease the intensity of whatever your workout routine is or switch up your usual with some very low-impact workouts—light stretching or yoga, brisk walking instead of running, slow paced cycling, low intensity weight training. I suggest though, that you skip the pool (if you can’t breathe through your nose how effective will that swim really be?) and avoid going upside down in any of your yoga poses, especially if you’ve been experiencing nasal congestion or headaches during your sickness.

Take note, if you workout at a gym, be mindful that other people workout there too and they don’t want to get whatever illness you have. If you do go to the gym, thoroughly wipe down the machines you use. Another option is to stay home and do a different workout. Chances are you have weights, a workout DVD, a bike trainer, or some form of workout gear at your house. If not, here’s a list of 10 Free Workout Sites You’ll Love.

I hope you feel better soon!

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