Despite the achey throat I laced up and consulted a fellow runner friend, who advised me to grab some menthol cough drops (which ended up being a life saver). Mentally I was precisely where I needed to be - a little sore throat wasn't going to stop me.
I woke up Monday morning with a head cold and some aches, but ultimately I know I made the right decision. For that day, anyways.
If you ever find yourself unsure if your too sick to work out, I've put together some easy guidelines to help you make the decision to rest or to go for it.
Tackling the Common Cold and Allergies
Dr. Edward Laskowski, M.D., a Sports Medicine Specialist at the Mayo Clinic suggests that "Exercise is usually OK if your signs and symptoms are all 'above the neck' --- symptoms you may have with a common cold, such as runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing or minor sore throat."
If it is allergy season that has your head congested and you prefer outdoor workouts consider moving your exercise session to the late afternoon, when pollen counts are lower.
What if it is more serious than a sneeze?
If you have fever, nausea, vomiting or respiratory distress – stay home and choose rest. Exercise while battling a more serious illness can be dangerous and may compromise recovery time.
When you have a fever, your body temperature is already too high and avoiding additional stresses is advised. Exercise raises your core body temperature and your heart rate. Physical exertion can intensify the effects of fever and leave you dehydrated or cause dizziness and fainting.
Additionally, coughing, body aches and fatigues are reason to take a break. Any sickness involving your lungs is a no-no when it comes to hitting the gym. Exercise can aggravate your lungs and lead to an infection, like bronchitis or pneumonia, which is harder to bounce back from.
Gym Etiquette with a Cold
You’ve determined that it’s safe to proceed with your scheduled exercise. If you are headed to the gym instead of outdoors you will want to follow a few simple rules for proper gym etiquette.
Avoid blowing your nose constantly and carry a towel with you at all times. Place it on any surface you come in contact with and be sure to wipe those areas down when you are done using them.
Also, be sure you are washing your hands often and consider carrying alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your gym bag. These help cut down the germs you may spread to others.
When is it safe to exercise again?
In general, any flu, even if uncomplicated, is going to knock you out for anywhere from 10 days to 2 weeks. When battling these types of illness, you should wait until you have recovered fully before resuming your exercise program.
You won’t be able to jump right back in where you left off after an extended absence. Start slowly, by lowering the intensity and duration of exercise until you feel comfortable. Starting back too soon, or too intense, puts you at risk of weakening your immune system or hurting yourself.
When your worried about a relapse
Sometimes a day of missing the gym triggers fears of a relapse. In this case it’s important to know your own limits. If missing a day of exercise will make you feel worse (which is sometimes the case with regular exercisers) consider scaling it back a notch. Try a walk instead of a run or substitute yoga in place of your regular conditioning class.
Start slow and progress to a moderate intensity – but only if you are feeling up to it. Do what you can do; if you can’t do, don’t.