Exercising when sick: when to push and when to rest
As the cold and flu season is well upon us, many of you will get sick this winter, and may well be wondering if it’s a good idea to skip or complete a workout.
Hard training can suppress your immune system, leaving you susceptible to opportunistic infections. Getting sick and missing weeks of training due to an illness is a real setback for any athlete.
Whilst there is no rule that fits everyone and every instance, a simple rule is the “neck check”
“The neck check”: If its in the head or throat you are good to do light to moderate intensity exercise, and if below the neck its best to rest.
Yes you can generally exercise when you are suffering from:
- mild sore throat
- runny or stuffy nose
- watery eyes
- mild headache
With minor illness, light exercise can actually enhance the immune system and shorten the duration of your illness.
Best to avoid exercise when below the neck with symptoms such as:
- fatigue and tiredness
- congestion or tight chest
- nausea or upset stomach
- muscle aches
- high temperature / fever
When should you return to exercise post illness?
It is best to wait for 1 day after any below-the-neck symptoms have resolved before resuming training. The first day of training post illness should be a light session (recovery pace run/ride, or reduce weights in the gym). Continue to train at a recovery pace until all above-the-neck symptoms disappear.
If any symptoms start to return, then cease training and rest, as trying to resume too early can prolong recovery.
Additional tips when returning to exercise post illness:
– Avoid strenuous cardio exercise in the cold air, as this can aggravate your lungs and airways
– Stay warm
– Ensure adequate hydration
– Supplementing a nutritious diet with Vitamin C, Zinc and probiotics may assist your immune system in fighting the infection
– Listen to your body! If it doesn’t feel right to be exercising, then rest!