You finally have a regular routine in the gym and performing in beast mode when you start feeling a bit under the weather.
You don’t want to lose any of your hard earned progress. What to do?
Keep going or give it a rest for a couple of days?
Depending on the severity of the illness, you may need to slow down a bit and take extra care of yourself until you feel better. A good guide to follow is the location of your symptoms, above or below your neck.
When it comes down to it, you have to put your health first and consider the consequences of pushing yourself too hard. Your motivation may be at an all time high but your body is sending you signals that it’s in need of some TLC and rest.
1. Above the neck
If you’re experiencing a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing and sore throat or any other symptom that’s “above the neck,” you can still workout, provided you have the energy and don’t have a fever.
You can try using a cold medicine that doesn’t make you drowsy to lessen symptoms and decongest a stuffy nose. If you’re in good shape, chances are you’ll recover quicker with less symptoms than someone living a sedentary lifestyle. Staying active is also beneficial to our immune system so a light session may even speed up the healing process.
Colds are contagious and the germs are spread easily through sweat, which will most likely end up on everything you touch in the gym, so you should factor that into your decision to go to a gym versus working out at home. If you decide to visit the gym, make sure you wipe down machines after use, avoid sneezing in the air, and wash your hands frequently, as cold germs can live on hard surfaces for hours.
Maybe you think you are well enough to exercise, but start feeling worse during your workout. If this happens, you should definitely cut back and drastically reduce your effort or end your session.
Take time to rest and recuperate before you workout again. When you decide to go back to the gym, start off slowly and take 3 or 4 days to work your way up to your normal intensity. If you do too much too soon, it can suppress your immune system and increase your recovery time.
2. Below the neck
“Below the neck,” symptoms, include coughing, fatigue, nausea, throwing up, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, chest discomfort, and aches and pains in various parts of the body.
These symptoms may be an indication of a more serious illness such as the flu or stomach virus. You should skip the gym and seek medical attention.
If you attempt your normal routine or any rigorous activity while your body’s trying to fight off a serious infection, you could exacerbate your condition and cause dehydration, lightheadedness, respiratory issues, or fainting, which can be very dangerous.
If you are sick with the flu or some type of upper respiratory infection, chances are you won’t feel like working out, so why force yourself. Apart from the fact that you will be highly contagious during the first few days, you will need to rest your body in order to allow your immune system to do its job and give yourself time to recover.
You will need to get as much rest as possible and up your intake of fluids, excluding alcohol, along with cold and flu medications or prescription meds if required. Working out causes sweating which leads to fluid loss and dehydration, which is counterproductive when you’re trying to get better.
3. Fever and flu
A fever is a sign that something’s not right with your body; it’s usually due to some form of illness.
A fever can occur with any of the symptoms already mentioned, so it’s an exception to the neck guide. A very high temperature can be dangerous regardless of other symptoms, and has been connected to heart damage. Anything above 100 degrees is considered high and should be treated right away to avoid further complications.
Although it is very rare, working out while you have a fever increases your risk of myocarditis, which is when the heart muscle becomes inflamed. Myocarditis can cause heart dysfunction, failure or sudden death.
If your symptoms are caused by the flu, they could persist for as long as three weeks. If you’re also feverish, you should do whatever’s necessary to get off your feet and rest your body until the fever goes away for at least 24 hours without the use of medications. Even after your fever goes away, it will take about another 3 to 5 days for your flu symptoms to ease up.
While you’re experiencing these symptoms, it means your body is still fighting the virus and you should continue doing your part by taking it easy. You may fall behind a bit in your progress, as bed rest causes loss of muscle mass and strength, but it will only take a few sessions to catch-up. Do not try to push your luck, as your body will need all its energy and resources to fight the infection.
Anything less will lengthen your illness and increase the amount of time to get back to where you were before falling ill. If you force your body to split its energy and resources between the infection and exercise, you will likely be sick longer.
4. Stomach Virus
Another type of illness that can put you out of commission is a stomach virus. These can be nasty and the only exercise you would normally get during the time you are symptomatic, are the quick sprints to the bathroom.
The norovirus is the most common source of stomach bugs and it causes diarhhea and vomiting. This of course leads to dehydration from losing too much fluid. So the last thing you need to do is workout and lose even more fluids. Symptoms of dehydration include increased thirst, dizziness, headache, dark yellow urine, and decreased urine output.
Stomach viruses like norovirus are very contagious and live on hard surfaces like those you normally find in a gym. If your symptoms aren’t severe and you feel well enough to work out, make sure you triple your water intake and check to make sure you have access to a bathroom at all times, if possible, just in case.
5. Seasonal Allergies
Seasonal allergies can sometimes mimic symptoms of all of the above illnesses. If your symptoms aren’t severe and you suffer from allergies consistently every year, you will more than likely know what to attribute your symptoms to.
In general, working up a sweat can be helpful with improving mild allergy symptoms. Exercise opens up the airways and can facilitate your breathing. If you’re allergic to pollen or it’s a cold time of year, you can do indoor activity.
If you must exercise outdoors or it can’t be avoided for whatever reason, you can cover your mouth and nose with a scarf to block out pollen and humidify the air when it’s cold.
6. In conclusion
For the most part, our body communicates whatever it’s going through and it’s up to us to act accordingly.
We sometimes push ourselves too hard without realizing all the wear and tear we inflict on our bodies. Fitness is very important but our health should always come first.