Should I Be Training When Sick – Or Stay in Bed?

Should you be training when sick?
I’m not this cute when I’m sick.

I’m well into a half marathon training cycle, chugging along, ignoring the coughing and sneezing, and BAM! Yesterday morning, I had the coughing-wheezing-sneezing-stuffy head of NyQuil fame. Training when sick isn’t new to me. Unless I’m laid out in bed, I’m going to go for a run or go to CrossFit. But this time, my head cold took a turn for the worse, and I not only took a sick morning off from training but also work. (Yes, that bad. I felt weak and shaky.)

Granted, a common cold isn’t a reason to skip a workout. You can train when sick with one, although it won’t be the most pleasant activity. But if you’re running a fever or have the flu, it’s probably better to stay home in bed.

There are a whole bunch of theories out there about when to skip a workout and when to push through it.  A couple of them are:

  • Work out if your symptoms are all above the neck. For a few days, it was all sore throat, stuffy nose, and mild cough. Yesterday morning, my cough hurt. My whole body hurt. It was definitely migrating below the neck, and going back to bed was a wise move.
  • Avoid extra stress when you’re sick. That means you can still be training when sick: strict aerobic exercise or mindful activities like yoga. But you don’t want to put extra stressors on your body when it’s already fighting a nasty bug.

My theory, and probably one that a doctor would agree with is: listen to your body. My body said, loudly and clearly, that it was not ready for any sort of run this morning. Yoga in the evening was all right; I did a restorative routine.

Health has a gallery of exercises you can do when you’re sick – and the ones to avoid. Among the ones that are best are walking, jogging, qi gong, and dance. And wisely, anything outdoors in the cold is not recommended. That would have been my morning run, in 40 degree weather.

Ultimately, do what’s best for you. I don’t like missing a training session, especially when I’m training for a half marathon. But I like hospitals and chest x-rays even less, so I will not be training when sick, if I’m so sick that climbing the stairs in my house is an ordeal.


2 thoughts on “Should I Be Training When Sick – Or Stay in Bed?

  1. I agree about listening to your body. I often do some activity when I have a cold, but tend to take time off if I am light headed, dizzy, drowsy, etc.

  2. This is perfect timing! I am pretty sick right now – I woke up Saturday feeling awful all over my body, so I moved my run to Sunday when I was feeling better. I’m not sure if I actually made it worse since I’m still sick 5 days later, but I’ve been trying to listen to my body and only do what I’m comfortable doing. My throat hurts so cold weather running sounds awful right now!

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