After a long embattled night with the stomach flu — falling asleep on the floor in child’s pose, crawling downstairs and parking on the sofa in an immobile pile for 6 more hours — I feel human again. It’s hard to believe that was this morning. Of course, it caused me to miss a swim and a yoga class that I was desperately craving — well, before I fell ill. My day’s plan also included a trainer ride; the question is: Should I attempt it?
Whether or not to exercise when you’re not feeling well is an important question to address. Working out can actually put extra stress on your immune system — impeding healing. Most of us would, if given a choice, take one to three days off rather than 3 weeks of half-a$$ workouts. However, that’s not what we always do. We hope to work through coughs, sniffles, fevers and headaches. I can’t tell you how many people this season have come to me knocked down due to recurrent respiratory infections. Of course, they tell me this as they’re running on the treadmill or taking cycling class.
The general rule is not to exercise if your symptoms occur below your head. If you simply have a stuffy nose and cough — you’re probably fine (given that you can breath). If you have symptoms such as a sore throat or body aches, fever or serious belly pain — you’d best take the day off. Of course, you can re-evaluate tomorrow and determine whether to go or not, but only if your symptoms subside — not because you’re feeling frustrated that you can’t exercise.
If it seems you just can’t catch a break this season — that it’s one illness after the other — your body may be sending you a serious signal. Overtraining can cause you to be more susceptible to catching every bug that you encounter. Ask yourself, are you sick more often than usual and if so, is a result of your own doing? Are you unwilling to take a day, or few days, or week off?
I’m equally guilty. I did a relatively gentle yoga practice at home as a stamina check. It went well and I’m progressively feeling better, so I may attempt just an hour-long trainer ride a bit later this afternoon. But, plenty of hydration in advance of that ride, permission to quit and focusing on staying in zone 1-2 are also part of the plan.