Should You Train When You’re Sick?

It doesn’t matter if you’re currently training for a big race or are just trying to stay in shape during your off-season. At some point, you’re going to find yourself feeling under the weather, and you may ask yourself if you should take a rest day or push through and stick to your training schedule.

Should You Train When You’re Sick? How to Know When to Rest and When to Push Through

This isn’t an easy question to answer — in short, it depends on your symptoms. Read on for some guidelines that will help you decide if you should rest or continue working out.

When to Rest

If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, it’s best to take a day or two off from training and let your body recover:

1. Fever
If you have a fever, take some time off. Training while you have a fever increases your risk of dehydration and can end up making your symptoms worse.

The best way to tell if you have a fever is to simply take your temperature with an oral thermometer. You can also be on the lookout for these other symptoms:

  1. Muscle aches
  2. Feelings of weakness
  3. Loss of appetite
  4. Dehydration

2. Frequent or Productive Cough
A mild cough doesn’t have to keep you away from your training. But if it’s a productive cough — one that brings up phlegm — or a cough that just doesn’t seem to go away, you should take it as a sign that you need to stay home and rest.

If you’re not sure about your cough, err on the side of caution, especially if you’re training at a public gym. After all, coughing is one of the primary ways that diseases are spread.

3. Digestive Issues
If your illness includes digestive issues like nausea, vomiting, stomach cramping, or diarrhea, you need to take a rest.

Nausea and vomiting are particularly risky symptoms — working out while you’re experiencing them increases your risk of dehydration.

All of these digestive issues also tend to make you feel weak, which increases your risk of injury. And, if you need any more convincing that you should take time off when your digestion is out of whack, remember that stomach bugs are highly contagious.

4. Influenza Symptoms
Influenza is another highly contagious illness that will sideline you for a few days. Common influenza symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Chills
  • Body aches
  • Headaches
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Congestion

Avoid pushing yourself when these symptoms show up. Overdoing it could weaken your immune system and prolong your illness. It can also cause dehydration and generally make your condition even worse.

When to Continue Working Out

Now that you know when not to work out, it’s time to cover times when it’s okay to continue exercising. The following conditions are usually not contagious, and, as long as you feel up to it, there’s no reason why you can’t keep training while experiencing your symptoms.

1. Earache
If your earache is not caused by an infection — and it isn’t affecting your balance — it’s fine to exercise while you wait for it to subside.

To avoid any discomfort, be sure to avoid cross-training exercises that put too much pressure on your sinus region.

2. Stuffy Nose
If you’re dealing with mild nasal congestion, like that caused by seasonal allergies, it’s okay to keep training. In fact, some people find that moderate exercise can actually help them breathe more easily.

If you don’t have additional symptoms like chest congestion or a productive cough, feel free to hit the gym or the trail. You may want to train at a lower intensity, though, since your stamina may be lower than usual.

3. Mild Sore Throat
Seasonal allergies can also cause a mild sore throat. As long as you aren’t experiencing any other influenza-like symptoms, you’re fine to continue exercising.

Remember to listen to your body, though, and reduce the intensity or duration of your typical routine if you need to. Keep plenty of cold water on hand, too, to help soothe your sore throat as you train.

Wrapping Up: Use these guidelines next time you feel under the weather. That way, you won’t spread germs or make your symptoms worse.

About the Author
Nurse Susan has always been passionate about helping people heal. After she retired from a lifelong career as a nurse, that passion didn’t go away. She loves to use her expertise to write about the best ways to keep you and your family healthy, active, and happy.

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