“Should I workout when I am sick?” This is probably one of the questions that I get asked the most, especially this time of the year. The short answer is, “No.” I used to go with, “It depends,” but I am now older and wiser. Presumably.

I am a firm believer that one workout can’t make you, however, one workout can break you. When in doubt, or even semi-doubt, take the day off. So keep in mind these 4 reasons why you shouldn’t workout when you are sick. I thought it would be better to give you 5 reasons but frankly I couldn’t come up with a worthwhile fifth. I also will admit that this is the one piece of my advice that I have the hardest time following. But I’m trying…

1) You are ignoring an important signal being sent by the body. This is probably the most important reason. If you’re sick your body needs rest and you shouldn’t expend energy on exercise that would be better spent on recovery. Working out when you’re sick diverts energy that your body needs to fight off whatever it is that ails you. Frequently catching colds or suffering from the flu is a symptom of Overtraining Syndrome, and working out when you are sick – ignoring a signal from your body – could be making a bad situation worse.

2) You can get worse. There are consequences for not listening to your body and getting – and feeling – worse after exercising is one of the obvious ones. Expending energy on exercise instead of recovery can turn a minor cough or cold into a major one. I have heard people claim that they feel better when they workout, and in some cases this may be true, but in the vast majority of instances this is a fleeting feeling. One workout cannot make you, but it can break you. This adage applies to working out with illness or through an injury.

3) You can make others sick. Germs are everywhere and a gym setting, no matter how sanitary, is one of the “dirtiest” places you could be in. Obviously, if are sick and are coughing and/or sneezing, have a runny nose, are sweating and come in contact with others you are exposing them to your germs. Did you see the Mythbusters episode where they determine how far a sneeze travels even when the mouth is covered? It really isn’t cool if you workout with a trainer when sick; you are in close proximity and there’s a good chance they will come in direct contact with your sweat and germs.

4) You will most likely have a lousy workout. If you are run down – for any reason – and go to the gym, there is a high probability that you won’t have a good workout. You can’t manufacture energy that you don’t have, and whether you are sick or over-trained, this lack of energy will clearly have an adverse affect on your workout. Your body is smarter than you are and if you are sick your body is telling you that something is wrong. Listen to your body and you will be better off in the long run.


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