Working out while sick – my three rules

You’ve got a 6am workout scheduled. You go to bed early, your clothes are set out, and the coffee will be ready with plenty of time to sip before you hit the gym. But when your alarm pings, your throat is sore, your body feels heavy, and you’ve got a cough. As you lay in bed, you go back and forth on whether or not you should get up. You mentally go through your list of all the reasons for or against working out while sick.

I’ll answer that question once and for all. These are my three guidelines to working out while sick.

Should you be working out while sick?

Should you be working out while sick? I'll answer that question once and for all. These are my three guidelines to working out while sick.

Fever = rest day

When you’ve got severe symptoms, your body needs rest. For me, “severe” means fever, joint/muscle aches, vomiting, or diarrhea. When you’ve got these symptoms, your body is working really hard to rid itself of a nasty bug, and your efforts to get fit could potentially make you more sick.

pit bull and mom

So, in other words, if you get the flu, REST.

Dial back the intensity

If you’ve got less severe symptoms, your illness is “above the neck,” and you want to work out, you are probably good to get in a sweat session. Even if you plan to exercise, it’s important to lessen the intensity.

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How?

  • Lighten your weights
  • Increase your rest intervals
  • Decrease your number of sets
  • Remove plyometric exercises

So, again, in other words, if you have a mild cold and want to exercise, go for a low intensity workout.

When in doubt, stick with mobility work or walking

Guideline number 3 is my favorite because it’s the one I most often choose 🙂 If you’re feeling kinda crappy and are not sure what would be best for you to do, mobility or yoga are always great. They give you that feeling of “exercising” without jacking your heart rate or taxing your muscular system.

Here are two of my favorite mobility workouts to try:

Mobility workout / warm up

Core + glute activation workout

attempted yoga while sick

You can also stick with low intensity cardio, like taking a walk outside. There’s even research to suggest that certain kinds of working out while sick (at a low intensity of course) can be helpful to your healing.

With these guidelines in mind, you’ll be back to working out in no time.  So that begs the question…

What about when you are starting to feel better?

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Don’t dive back in immediately! Even when your symptoms have abated, your body may still be fighting to keep you well.

A good rule of thumb is to ease in slowly. If you were sick for three days, take three days at a lower intensity before you return to high intensity training.

Is it easy for you to take a day off when you’re not feeling well?

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4 thoughts on “Working out while sick – my three rules

  1. This post comes in handy.. as I had the stomach bug on Saturday night and don’t quite feel 100% yet. I was actually wondering about working out while ill and this post delivered- so thank you! Glad I found you and your blog! 🙂

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