Fitness by the Fire: Sickness and Fitness: When to stop and when to push through
by Ron Kennedy • February 19, 2019
A healthy fitness lifestyle comes along with numerous benefits. The looks one gets when their loved ones notice the changes from the efforts they have committed too. Access to old clothing previously banished to a time long ago when they used to fit. The ease of moving objects from the strength your muscles have produced others typically find to heavy or cumbersome to budge. Not to mention the confidence you display as you enter a room and people start taking a second glance at the specimen that just walked in. All very noteworthy perks to taking care of oneself. Yet no matter the age, esthetic goals, or physical activities any individual wishes to pursue, the one thing we can all agree on is that we commit to fitness to prevent illness. After all, what is the use of all the sacrifices, all the discipline, all the hard work if you can’t keep sickness from knocking at your door?
At the time of writing this article, several of our clients who are typically very committed and consistent where in the process of recovering from some short of illness. Being mid-February, cold a flu season is in full effect, and unfortunately despite your efforts to wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough etc. others neglect to take such precautions. This dilemma is especially more difficult if you have children (as I do) as more often than not your children go to school as healthy as a horse, just to be exposed to a child who is a virtual walking hot zone (an excellent book by Richard Preston that I highly suggest you indulge upon). In honor of those clients who did their best to come in and operate at the same standards they normally do health, I decided to write this article reviewing the times when you feel ill and maybe a bit of exercise can help you kick out what every little bugger is causing havoc within your system, and when its best to quarantine yourself and wait out the infection.
Before I go into some symptoms and how they will effect your exercise levels, let me be clear that I am not suggestion anyone should or should not exercise when they are feeling ill, that choice is entirely up to you of course, but I will share that from my own experiences exercise has helped me over come perceived illness and boosted my own immune system.
“Ehhh… I am not 100%, but I think I can make it”
A man or woman after my own heart! You are not going to let a runny nose keep you from the gym! I respect that, but let’s review the symptom and the effect it will have on your fitness training.
A mild cold is a viral infection of the nose and throat. Though symptoms vary from person to person, most people who have a cold experience a stuffy nose, headache, sneezing and mild cough. If you have a mild cold, there’s no need to skip the gym if you have the energy to work out.
Although, if you feel that you lack the energy to get through your normal routine, consider reducing the intensity of your workout or shortening its duration. While it’s generally ok to exercise with a mild cold, keep in mind that you might spread germs to others and cause them to become ill.
Practicing proper hygiene is a great way to prevent spreading your cold to others. Wash your hands frequently and cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough.
A sore throat is usually caused by a viral infection like the common cold or flu. In certain situations, like when your sore throat is associated with a fever, productive cough or difficulty swallowing, you should put exercise on hold until a doctor tells you it’s ok. However, if you are experiencing a mild sore throat caused by something like a common cold or allergies, working out is likely safe.
If you are experiencing other symptoms that are often associated with a common cold, such as fatigue and congestion, consider reducing the intensity of your normal exercise routine. Reducing the duration of your workout is another way to modify activity when you feel well enough to workout but don’t have your usual stamina.
Having a stuffy nose can certainly be frustrating and uncomfortable, but it doesn’t necessarily signal the onset of the black death. If it’s associated with a fever or other symptoms like a productive cough or chest congestion, you should consider taking some time off from working out. However, it’s ok to work out if you are only experiencing some nasal congestion. In fact, getting some exercise may help open up your nasal passages, helping you breathe better.
Ultimately, listening to your body to determine if you feel well enough to exercise with a stuffy nose is the best bet. Modifying your workout to accommodate your energy level is another option. Going for a walk or bike ride are great ways to stay active even when you aren't feeling up to your usual routine.
Always practice proper hygiene at the gym, especially when you have a runny nose. Wipe down equipment after you’ve used it to avoid spreading germs.
“We know you’re a tough guy/gal, but it’s time to take a break from the gym”
I am the type of guy that when the angel of death comes to collect my bounty, he is going to be a bit delayed since I will be in the gym getting in a few more reps. Despite that, I know when to say no. Here are some symptoms that should keep you far and clear from the gym until you have recovered.
When you have a fever, your body temperature rises above its normal range, which hovers around 98.6°F. A fever can be caused by many things, but it’s most commonly triggered by a bacterial or viral infection. Fevers can cause unpleasant symptoms like weakness, dehydration, muscle aches and loss of appetite. Working out while you’re feverish increases the risk of dehydration and can make a fever worse.
Additionally, having a fever decreases muscle strength and endurance and impairs precision and coordination, increasing the risk of injury.
An occasional cough is a normal response to irritants or fluids in the body’s airways, and it helps keep the body healthy. However, more frequent episodes of coughing can be a symptom of a respiratory infection like a cold, flu or even pneumonia.
While a cough associated with a tickle in the throat isn't a reason to skip the gym, a more persistent cough can be a sign you need to rest. Although a dry, sporadic cough may not impair your ability to perform certain exercises, a frequent, productive cough is reason to skip a workout.
A persistent cough can make it difficult to take a deep breath, particularly when your heart rate rises during exercise. This makes you more likely to become short of breath and fatigued. A productive cough that brings up phlegm or sputum may be a sign of infection or another medical condition that requires rest and should be treated by a doctor.
Furthermore, coughing is one of the main ways illnesses like the flu are spread. By going to the gym when you have a cough, you’re putting fellow gym-goers at risk of being exposed to your germs.
Illnesses that affect the digestive system, such as the stomach flu, can cause serious symptoms that make working out off-limits. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, stomach cramping and decreased appetite are all common symptoms associated with stomach bugs. Diarrhea and vomiting put you at risk of dehydration, which physical activity worsen.
Feeling weak is common when you have a stomach ailment, increasing the chance of injury during a workout. What’s more, many stomach illnesses like the stomach flu are highly contagious and can be easily spread to others.
If you are feeling restless during a stomach illness, light stretching at home is your safest bet.
I think this one is rather self-explanatory, but Influenza is a contagious illness that impacts the respiratory system. The flu causes symptoms like fever, chills, sore throat, body aches, fatigue, headache, cough and congestion. The flu can be mild or severe, depending on the level of infection, and can even cause death in serious cases. Although not every person who gets the flu will experience a fever, those who do are at an increased risk of dehydration, making working out a bad idea.
Though most people recover from the flu in less than two weeks, choosing to engage in intense workouts while sick may prolong the flu and delay your recovery. This is because engaging in higher-intensity activity like running or swimming temporarily suppresses the body’s immune response.
Plus, the flu is a highly contagious virus that is spread primarily through tiny droplets people with the flu release into the air when they talk, cough or sneeze. If you are diagnosed with the flu, it’s best to take it easy and avoid exercise while you’re experiencing symptoms.