“Should I work out when sick?” This is a question most — if not all — of us will have to face at some point.
Most of the time, if it’s minor in nature, you can push through it. In fact, it may even make you feel better to workout if you have some head congestion or a cold.
But if you’ve got something more debilitating, like a bad stomach bug or a respiratory situation, working out can really set you back and make matters worse.
The quick rule of thumb is that if the illness is above your neck, go ahead and workout. If it’s below your neck (lungs, g.i.), you need to put the breaks on the exercise. Get your rest. Your body needs to recover. And when you get well, pick up where you left off and Bring It! But of course continue to eat right even while you are sick so that you don’t take a step backwards.”
Before P90X, I used to get sick all the time. I work in the mouths of kids all day long, and having a cold every week or two was a way of life. I also live in Tulsa Oklahoma, the allergy capital of the world. I used to pop Zyrtek, Claritin, and Allegra like they were Tic Tacs. However, in the 18 months that I’ve been bringing it, I’ve only been sick ONCE! And I never take any allergy meds anymore, even when I’m mowing the grass (which used to make my eyes swell up and leave me wheezing for several hours). Quite a notable feat for a guy like me who my wife used to get so mad at because I was always under the weather.
I credit my indestructable immune system to the perfect combination of Shakeology, exercise, and impeccable nutrition. But we all know that even the most fit people in the world get sick sometimes. And sure enough it finally caught up to me! It was the week between Christmas and New Years Eve, the flu virus swept through our house. All 5 kids went down first (that was NOT fun!). Then a couple days later, I started to feel sick. But I was in full-fledged denial. I hadn’t been sick in a year. No way was I catching the flu!
For a split-second, I remembered my own advice — this was G.I. and anything below the neck should get rest to make sure I didn’t make things worse — but then I thought, “No! I can’t skip a workout! I must lift!” So I did my workout, felt miserable, and crashed the rest of the day. Surely I learned my lesson though, right? Well, not exactly! I figured I could push through it, and I worked out again the next day. I felt like I was having an asthma attack the whole time, really felt horrible, and couldn’t eat the rest of the day! Finally I took a hint and decided to take the next day off. I didn’t get much better the next day — just spent most of it sleeping and going back and forth between chills and sweating. And all the while I was planning how I could make up the missed workout by doubling up the following day. The next day I went for it. I tried working out again. Another mistake! I continued to get worse, continued to drop precious weight that I had been gaining during the mass building round, and feeling just plain awful!
I finally said that I would take my own advice and stop working out until I recovered, which turned out to be 2 more days. I finally woke up feeling good on Jan 1st, hit it hard on a great session of Chest/Shoulders/Tris, and was back to my usual self. I kicked myself for staying sick a whole week, when I probably could have cut it down to just 2-3 days if I had rested like I was supposed to.
Luckily, in my entire Beachbody experience from Feb 2010 until now, in September 2011, that one week of the flu is the only episode of illness I’ve dealt with. The colds, the allergies, the upset stomachs …. they are all ancient history. I am a big believer (and walking example) of how a lot of that stuff is the direct results of not taking good care of ourselves. I keep my body running well, and it fights off all that junk. Hopefully my trend will continue, but just knowing that we are all going to get hit with illness from time to time, when it does catch up to me again, you better believe I’ll be resting and recovering, not trying to push through it and making myself worse! Lesson learned!
Coach, I was diagnosed with a kidney stone last Sunday night. Went to the ER and was discharged with Vicodin. Well later that evening I went back for extreme pain and was admitted for 23 hours. To make a long story short, I was sent home on Percocet and was scheduled for surgery yesterday for which the stone was removed. The question I have is Monday will be a week since I worked out. I had just finished my second week of insanity. Do I start over from the beginning or do I just pick up at week 3? I didn't know since I was of a week what to do. Thanks, Todd.
Todd that is up to you. Being only two weeks in and coming of fa surgery it might be good to start over as you will probably be a little tender. The extra time will be good to get back into it.
I think I feel mostly better. Very small amount of lightheadedness but I've chugged about a quart or so of water in the last hour and a half, and had the AC on full blast. Did sweat a lot, but not like drenched or anything, so I think I can push through.
Hey coach, so today was a VERY hot day out in NY, around 90-95 degrees and I've gone through about 90 oz water (about 1/3rd of that in the last hour). I walked about a half hour to school and a half hour back so I've been in the heat a lot. Got home around 230 and have been drinking water non stop and AC on full blast. I have a small headache from the heat but feel generally ok. I'm wondering if it's ok to lift (shoulders/arms and arx today in around a half hour) or would it be counterproductive bc I may not be hydrated enough. I doubt it would be catabolic in any way but I dont want to get sick. Thanks
Jeremy - You have to listen to your body. If you you are dehydrated, don't work out. You could give your doctor's office a call for a real medical opinion.
I know this is a little older article, but I'm going through this right now. I was doing really well. This would have been my 6th week. But I have gotten sick. So this article is good for me. Also I found this other article that explains why and how it really doesn't do you any good to work out if you have anything worse than a cold. It could even be life threatening. http://www.active.com/triathlon/articles/scare_tactics_to_prevent_you_from_exercising_while_ill.htm?cmp=17-4-1654
I started my new hybrid on Thursday, but took today off due to illness. My question is when I feel better, should i start the week over or do the workout I was supposed to do today?
Great article! Just hitting Autumn here in the UK so illness is on it's way. I will definitely be taking this advice if needed, hopefully I won't though! Thanks.
never workout when sick....period. Your body is already using all it's energy for your immune system so it can fight the sickness. If you workout or exercise then your body uses all its remaining energy to repair damaged muscles. therefore downing your immune system to the degree where you actually get even more sick than before. Personal experience- i had a small head cold for about two days and decided that it would be better to go to the gym and workout. BAD IDEA!. After the next few days of this i woke up not only feeling terribly sore but suffering from flu symptoms that knocked me out of my workouts for a full week. DO NOT WORK OUT WHEN SICK!
Great article, that was me before I starting eating healthy and taking care of my body. I learned the same lesson.
It's great how your posts always touch up on soemthing going on in my life at the moment! Awesome post. My son has been sick this past four days and luckily for me, I think Shakeology has been helping with my immune system because usually I'd catch it right away. However, today I'm feeling a bit under the weather. I still worked out but was seriously bonking out at the end. I usually workout on Sundays, but I think tomorrow will be a TRUE REST day for me. LOL.
Hey Coach, perfect timing on the article. I have a head cold for the first time in the past year+ that I have been using P90X. I think I said it too many times that I have not been sick since working out so much. I am doing okay working through it, but questioned myself if I should take a week and break from the routine. For now, still bringing it and thinking this cold is on its way out the door.
Great post, Coach! Ditto the allergies here. And I can really relate to the Tic Tacs! In years past, when a cold came on, it always turned into a sinus infection. Slam! 5 or more days feeling miserable and taking antibiotics. Then I got some awesome advice: Use a sinus rinse product with squeeze bottle (m y preference) or "neti pot". Use this at the very first tingle of a cold in nose or throat, and as directed while you have symptoms. If you don't kick it (the cold) completely, you will shorten its duration significantly. I also use this after mowing the lawn or other dirty/dusty work. Gets me past that "allergic feeling." Two or three years since I've used a sick day.
In June, I got sick. I tried pushing through my workouts, like you, and just got worse. I was wheezing, and then I finally found out it was Bronchitis. I was sick for a little over three weeks, and lost at least 8 of the pounds I had worked so hard to gain. I learned my lesson! When I get sick, I will REST!
Thanks for this great post. Just last night I tried working out but I felt very weak and was hot/cold like I was coming down with something. Instead of pushing thru I stopped and went to bed extra early. Today, I feel much better. Working out hard everyday takes a toll on your body. If it is already compromised then there is no way for you to recover if your body is busy fighting your illness. Keep it up!
Glad I stayed home for the past several days getting over being sick. I will start my hybrid tomorrow morning. I agree you'll just make it worse and last longer if you think you can ignore it. Listen to your body... it knows better than you! Thanks for this site and your motivation. God Bless Ian
Great article coach. I like you always had terrible sinus infections and seasonal allergies. Every three months was getting a steroid shot. Took Zrytec D, Allegra D almost daily. With just the introduction of Shakeology about 4 months ago, not a single cold or infection. Amazing what a difference it has made.