I'm all for the "no excuses" philosophy of working out, but let's be honest; There are times when you really just shouldn't work out. After a surgery, even some minor ones, you may need to take a few days (or weeks) off. The flu can take you out of the running, and even some colds can be bad enough to take the wind out of your sails. So how do you know when to take the day off? For example, exercising with a cold may be OK, but if you've got a fever, hitting the gym is a definite no-no. Fever is the limiting factor, says Lewis G. Maharam, MD, a New York City-based sports medicine expert. "The danger is exercising and raising your body temperature internally if you already have a fever, because that can make you even sicker," he tells WebMD. If you have a fever greater than 101 degrees Fahrenheit, sit this one out.
Above the neck test: I use this really simple rule: if it's above the neck, you're probably good to go. Below? Think twice. So a head cold, sore throat, teary eye--these are sometimes helped by exercising, because the movement can help move the mucus and relieve some congestion. But bronchitis or anything to do with the lungs will rule out exercise until your lungs heal. Stomach flu, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea? Take the day off. A slight headache, give the workout a try. Of course, for migraine sufferers, you know what you need to do...seeing an aura--get meds and rest!
10 minute Rule: Another easy rule to follow: if you are sick, and you go for it and start working out, the first 10 minutes will be very telling. If you aren't feeling better in 10 minutes, or your symptoms intensify, stop. You do have to listen to your body. You really need to know your limits. If you are feeling kind of bad, you may want to consider a walk instead of a run. Take the intensity down or do a regenerative activity like yoga or Pilates because if you don't feel great, it may not be the best day to do your sprints.
Don't Get Sick: The best way to avoid the problem is not to get sick in the first place. Exercise in general can help boost your body's natural defenses against illness and infection. "Thirty minutes of regular exercise three to four times a week has been shown to raise immunity by raising levels of T cells, which are one of the body's first defenses against infection. However, intense 90-minute training sessions like those done by elite athletes can actually lower immunity." (Neil Schachter, MD, medical director of respiratory care at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York)
Gym Etiquette: It's one thing if you decide to exercise when sick, but how do you keep from spreading it to others in the gym? And what about you if they are the ones exercising with a cold? If you are constantly blowing your nose, grab a gym wipe, and keep your hands clean. Use a towel to keep a protective barrier between you and other equipment users. Be sure to wipe up after you are done. Cardio equipment gathers sweat and other debris, and while the machines are cleaned regularly, it never hurts to be preventative on your part. Gym equipment is typically cleaned once a day, so there are a lot of folks using machines between cleanings. The value of clean hands cannot be overstated in both keeping your germs from others, and keeping their germs away from you!
No Jewish mother worth her salt misses an opportunity to make and serve one of the best cold remedies ever created, chicken soup. You can make your own, too! Here's how:
Put the chicken, carrots, celery and onion in a large soup pot and cover with cold water. Heat and simmer, uncovered, until the chicken meat falls off of the bones (skim off foam every so often).
Take everything out of the pot. Strain the broth. Pick the meat off of the bones and chop the carrots, celery and onion. Season the broth with salt, pepper and chicken bouillon to taste, if desired. Return the chicken, carrots, celery and onion to the pot, stir together, and serve.
Suggestions for working out with a cold: Yoga walking jogging Qui Gong or Tai Chi light cardio class like Zumba light weight lifting Pilates
Things to avoid: Long endurance runs Intense interval format classes heavy weight lifting anything outside in the cold (it takes extra energy to stay warm, and you need that energy for healing)