A birds-eye shot of a man wearing blue tennis shoes stands in front of a weightlifting plate. Photo by Victor Freitas for Unsplash.

Most of us try our best to take care of our body by eating right, managing stress, sleeping well, and exercising. But no matter how many precautions you take, even the best vaccination isn’t 100% flu-proof.

Whether you’ve got the sniffles or a serious stomach bug, getting sick is never fun. Unfortunately, it’s also an unavoidable part of life. Given varying intensities and varieties, it’s often hard to know for sure if your cold is serious enough to take a rest day in lieu of your regular workout routine. 

In this article, we’ll look at common symptoms and conditions that make fitness fanatics second-guess their sunrise yoga class. By comparing these factors, we’ll see which ailments necessitate a break from the gym, and which ones are mild enough that they don’t need to interrupt your goals. 

When To Skip The Gym

There are two main ways to tell if your condition is serious enough to pass up the pilates: 1) the symptoms you’re experiencing, and 2) where you’re feeling under the weather. 

If you have a fever, body aches, chills, or fatigue, feel free to take a break. Likewise, if you’re coughing and feel severely congested in your lungs or chest, a run most likely won’t help you recover. A good rule of thumb is that symptoms in your chest, torso, and head shouldn’t be ignored if they don’t go away with an over-the-counter pain reliever.

The most important thing to remember is that exercising with a fever is flat-out dangerous. When your body temperature is elevated due to some foreign pathogen or virus, it’s already working in overdrive just to keep your vital organs safe! This takes an immense toll on the body, so adding more to its to-do list — yes, even eustress is seen by the body as stress — is not a smart idea. Not only will it take you longer to heal and get back on your feet, but you can actually risk putting yourself in the emergency room by further raising your body heat with exercise. 

Long story short, when your body is giving you strong signals that it’s fighting off something nasty, you definitely do not want to circulate that yucky stuff around your body. Take a break from the gym —we promise you’ll be back before you know it. 

When To Stay the Course 

Fevers, chills, and coughs aren’t the only conditions you’re likely to encounter in these colder months. Fortunately, if you don’t have a temperature and your lungs are relatively clear, chances are your symptoms aren’t too severe.

Although you may not be feeling your best, there are instances when it’s okay to work out with a cold or mild illness. If your nose is running but it goes away with a nasal spray, or if your head hurts a bit until you pop a Tylenol, you’re most likely fine to grind out a workout. If your muscles feel sore, that can actually be normal. So long as your body isn’t fatigued due to some other infection or injury, tender muscles can often be an indicator that you’re actually building strength!

All that being said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with scaling back the intensity of a workout when you’re feeling less than your best. The truth is, even if your body is only mildly sick, it is still sick to a certain extent. This means it is more vulnerable than when it’s at its healthiest. So instead of a sprint series, try going for a long walk. Or in place of your usual Jiu Jitsu sesh, opt for a more restorative martial art like Yoga or Tai Chi. 

Bottom Line

No two people will benefit from a workout in precisely the same way, just as no two people will best recover from an illness in the same way. Check in with yourself to see how you’re doing, how intense your symptoms are, and go to the doctor if you’re not sure. 

Remember that there is an enormous difference between pushing yourself to a new personal record, and sabotaging yourself into a worse state of sickness. No workout is worth it if it leaves you feeling weaker than when you started.