You wake up feeling a bit less than your best: Achy, fatigued, sniffly nose--the works. Yep, seems like you're getting sick (ugh!). But you've got a workout already planned for today, and you took a rest day yesterday. Should you push through your planned workout or take it easy?
When you're sick and are debating a workout, the first general rule of thumb is simple. When you're deciding whether to head to the gym or stay home and cozy up to that bottle of DayQuil, consider "the neck rule" first. If your symptoms are exhibited above the neck (i.e. runny or stuffy nose, watery eyes, scratchy throat), then it is safe for you to head to the gym (but bring some tissues!). If your symptoms fall below your neck (i.e. chest congestion, coughing, or if you have a fever and are taking medications to control your symptoms), you might want to use that gym bag as a pillow instead. Having to press pause on your weekly workout routine can be a motivation killer, but a fully functioning body is your best weapon to stay healthy and fit.
I’ve passed your neck-up rule. Now what?
Well then, let’s talk about that HIIT class you wanted to try. While low to moderate exercise can have beneficial effects on cold symptoms, any type of high intensity workout could send your body into overdrive and take you out of the game for good. As excited as you were about rocking the front row in class, you might just have to find a way to do a shorter duration and lower intensity workout. You can still bring yourself into the studio and take a fun, lower-intensity class which can help you relieve some stress.
What other options do I have?
Some other good exercises can include walking, or even jogging if you are an avid runner, as it helps to open up nasal passages. Mindful movement classes such as yoga or stretching can help increase cortisol levels and relieve some aches and pains. You might even want to take a ride on the recumbent bike, but be sure to wipe it down so the next person doesn’t end up missing out on their favorite class after catching your germs! (Don’t be that person, okay?)
If the weather is nice, outdoor workouts are acceptable, but if your springtime weather still involves a down jacket, stay away from the cold and move your workout indoors, as cold air restricts your airways.
Is there anything I should avoid?
Steer clear of long endurance runs for now. There is no marathon happening for you if you push your body to go on your long run. You might be running yourself straight back to bed for the long haul!
You’re also not competing to be Mr. or Mrs. Olympia today, either. Heavy weight-lifting is a no-go. While lifting for repetitions can be manageable, trying to deadlift that 250lb one repetition maximum weight is not happening.
The bottom line: Stick to what your body knows. Don’t go out and try to do something completely new, as you don’t want to shock your body. Think of your illness as a good opportunity to work on other exercises you wouldn't normally devote as much time to (i.e. simple balance exercises or stretching). Your goal is to do movement that improve circulation, and if getting to the gym isn’t happening, you can even find yourself a lower-intensity workout on your favorite streaming digital channel and stay active in the comfort of your home. Most importantly, remember to stay hydrated!
Amanda Young is AcaciaTV’s cardio instructor and has been a group fitness instructor and social worker for over 15 years. She holds several fitness (ACE) and training certifications, teaches at Equinox, and consults for fitness companies such as Reebok, Shape Up NYC and Lululemon.
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