Consistency is a cornerstone to fitness, so having to take an unplanned rest day can understandably be very frustrating.
So when you get a case of the sniffles that you just can’t shake or a nagging cough that won’t cut it out, are you better off taking a rest or pushing through?
It’s All in Your Head
You may have heard this before, but a very general rule of thumb is to assess your symptoms using the Above-the-Neck Rule.
If your symptoms are above the neck, like a runny nose or a minor cough, generally speaking, you’d be okay to workout.
However, if you’re experiencing muscle aches, chills, or nausea (and the urge to throw up because Coach Colby asked you to do a lot of burpees doesn’t count), it’s good to sit this day out.
Keep in mind, that this is a really general rule. If you have any underlying health conditions, it’s always good to consult a physician or to play it safe and take a rest until you’re fully recovered.
Is it Worth it?
There are obviously a lot of benefits that come with exercising regularly, but exercising while sick, maybe not so much.
While the endorphin rush of a workout may fill you with all the feel-goods while you’re healthy, straining your body while sick may do the opposite. The one thing you don’t want to do is do an intense total body workout and push yourself so much that you only get sicker and extend the time that you can’t actually train. In fact, while exercise has a lot of benefits (obviously!), it does temporarily depress your immune system, meaning you’re overtaxing your first line of defense in getting better. Remember, your body is already focusing on recovering from being sick, it doesn’t also need to focus on repairing your body from a tough training session, too.
What about a light workout, you ask? The jury’s still out on if light exercise or just targeting a muscle group or two while sick will help shorten the duration of your illness (though getting the blood pumping may help decongest your nose if you’re dealing with the common cold), so really it’s a bit of a calculated risk.
If you’re feeling good and are smart about your working capacity consider perusing Tempo's low-impact total body mobility and recovery workouts to get some activity in without too much stress (not spiking the heart rate for example) on the body, chances are you’ll be fine. If you decide to push it a bit harder, just keep in mind, the immediate benefits of a tough training session may not outweigh the longer-term detriment to your health.
Give it a Rest
Ultimately, you know your body better than anyone.
Before you lace up your shoes and slip into your favorite workout gear (and turn on your Tempo), give yourself some time to listen to your body.
Take your warm-up slow and as our very own Coach Natalia says, take stock of your body. If you’re feeling achy, fatigued, and out of sorts, take a day off.
If you decide that you’re feeling okay, just make sure to keep yourself extra hydrated, even with a minor cold. A runny nose is still water escaping your body.
And just know that even if you take that extra day off, there’s still a little victory in knowing you gave yourself that rest your body needed and that you trust yourself enough to get back to it when you’re ready to.