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Working out with a cold

I’m on day 5 of being sick and while I don’t feel awesome, I don’t feel that terrible either. I’ve been getting better each day and almost feel back to normal. This is good news because I really need a good workout!

I’ve read all the articles that tell you it’s fine to work out when you’re sick, as long as it’s above the neck and all that. Well, over the past years I’ve made some classic mistakes when it comes to this. The biggest mistake I’ve made is that I’m usually in denial in the beginning. I would feel myself getting sick, but some part of me thought that if I just ignored it, it would go away. As a result, I wouldn’t change any part of my normal routine and sprint/HIIT/lift away as usual. This typically resulted in bronchitis that lasted for 3 weeks. Not good!

These days, I’m much better about taking care of myself when I feel a cold coming on (though Riley would argue with you, given that I haven’t taken a sick day in…hmm, not sure, actually, but it’s been a while). I’m learning to embrace the sleep and relaxation needed to get better quickly. Sadly, this meant a completely boring weekend in which I did nothing to celebrate St. Patty’s Day and received this text from my friend after declining her invitation to hang out:


While I was kind of bummed I missed out on all the weekend fun, I’m glad I did because it means I have learned from my mistakes! Here are some of the best things I’ve learned about working out while sick.

Working out with a cold

1) Go on the offensive early! If I spend the first 3-5 days of a cold ignoring it, it ALWAYS gets worse. Cut back on the intensity of your workouts, drink a ton of water, and go to bed an hour earlier. It’s worth it, even if you don’t feel all that bad at first. I’d rather take it easy for a few days and get better fast than keep plugging away as normal and have it linger for a month.

2) Give yourself permission to “slack off.” There will be plenty of HIIT and sprinting to go around later, so when I get sick I try not to worry too much about getting off track and to just do what I can. This morning, for example, I planned on going to the gym. After assessing how I felt when the alarm went off, my gym workout turned into yoga in the living room, which is just fine. Though I’ll warn you, doing yoga in your living room is a challenge when you have a cat who wants to do it too.

yoga cat

3) Listen to your body. I can’t stress this one enough. Everyone is different, so don’t assume that because some people run half marathons when sick that you should do it too. A lot of people work out when they’re sick and it doesn’t change the course of their cold. I am not one of those people. If I stay business-as-usual with my workouts, it will take forever to get better. Working out while sick also means cutting into much-needed sleep for me and also dehydrates me. If I want to get better fast, I know I need to slooooow down.

Now that I’ve gotten my 9 hours of sleep and done some yoga, I feel ready to get started with my day. I’ll be back in the gym tomorrow, and I’ll hopefully be all better. Hope you all have a good one!

Do you work out when you’re sick? If so, do you change up the routine or just stick to the usual?


27 thoughts on “Working out with a cold

  1. I usually try and workout when I’m sick following the same rule as you but it really depends how sick I am. This week I meant to get back on track after using my arm as an excuse to slack off but with work travel it has been insanely busy so I just haven’t managed it, oops.

    I hope you feel better soon lady!

    • Work travel is way more stressful than a lot of people realize! When your whole routine is out of whack it can make it much harder to keep normal habits. I’m heading out of town tomorrow for work, so I totally understand how much work can affect your gym schedule!

  2. I usually try to at least get moving a little whether that is walking or biking, something low key but something that will make me sweat a little, that usually helps me when I’m under the weather. But I always head to bed like 3 hours early haha, whether that be sleeping or just laying down for awhile! Sleep and rest does wonders!

  3. I’m so sorry your under the weather. Now that it’s a new day, hopefully come evening time you’ll start feeling back to your normal self.

    I’m not a fan of working out when I’m sick – especially those times where my workouts were done @ the gym. Id hate to spread germs to someone else. I will say though, if Im just feeling a bit fatigued I will go for a short walk or meditate.

  4. hope your feeling better buddy- you’ve accumulated some great rules and ones which I relate to. Ironically, the times I enjoy cardio the most is when I’m sick- it tends to get rid of colds stat! lifting on the other hand….it’s lke a focus on the weakness!

  5. Hahaha. Ur friend is awesome! And yes, actually listening to ur body when ur sick is good. It usually does not lie! I hope ur feeling better! 😘

  6. Definitely depends on the level of sickness. When I feel something coming on I tend to workout harder thinking that I am sweating out all the germs. ya…. probably not considering I still get sick. haha. I guess I do what I can until my body says ‘freaking stop already’.

  7. Glad you are feeling better and I 100% agree with listening to your body. . . however, I have to be careful with that one, because sometimes it tries to convince me that I don’t need to go to the gym but instead sit on the couch and eat lots of ice cream. 😉

  8. Oh yeah, I’ve definitely learned this the hard way too! Whenever I’m stressed and not feeling well, I always try to take it easy so that I don’t make it worse.
    Sounds like you are doing the best thing and I hope you feel better soon!

  9. I’ve definitely learned from my mistakes when it comes to working out while sick. I used to push myself just as hard, and always wound up making it worse. It’s been a handful of years since I’ve had a cold or flu, but these days I tend to take it easy even if I didn’t have a good sleep the night before. Sometimes we just need to give the body a chance to take care of itself instead of forcing it to use up that energy to work out. It’s all about looking agh the big picture instead of trying to analyze every day on its own.

    • You are super lucky that it’s been that long since you were sick. Share your secrets, cause I get sick 3-4 times a year!
      I totally agree that pushing things often makes it worse, time to take it easy!

  10. I try to go lower intensity in my workouts when I am not feeling 100%. I feel like it is hard to not do anything because I start to go a little stir crazy, and with that being said, I also know that my body isn’t going to thrive from an intense gym session. So, I will go on a short walk or do a couple yoga stretches. Feel better soon, girl!

  11. I try to cut back the intensity of the workout when I’m feeling sick. First because the body needs rest, second my performance is soooo bad when I’m sick. These past days I’ve been sick too, so I just cut a little intensity, and tried to sleep, and relax. Hope you are feeling better by now!

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