Should I Still Exercise When I’m Sick?
9 months ago
Illness impacts every aspect of life. In particular, your body spends its energy on its immune response as it works to get you back into top shape. During this time of year, with colds, flu, and covid-19 circulating, illness is more likely than in the warm summer months. With people experiencing things such as long covid, getting your body back to ‘normal’ can be a frustrating and drawn-out process. Things that are part of your daily routine, such as exercise, become increasingly harder as your body works on its immune response. When you are ready to get back to your exercise routine, your body will be different from its pre-illness self. Being intentional with how you return to exercise can help with recovery and eventually a pre-illness routine.
1. Listen to Your Body
After being bedridden for a while, it’s easy to crave that sweaty workout. Being off a schedule can make you anxious to start again, however, it is critically important to first listen to your body. As a rule of thumb, it's important to measure the severity of illness. For example, things such as sniffles or headaches may not be detrimental to the workout regimen. On the other hand, if you have a fever it is important to rest rather than jump into a hard workout. Working out with a fever can take away the energy your body needs to fight off infection, and actually take you back to square one. That’s why in the first rule of exercising after illness, it is important to “gear check” to make sure you are fully ready to go.
After fighting off illness, your body will need extra help to function at its best. Making sure to have the proper nutrition before jumping back into a gym routine is one way to ensure that the body has what it needs. Having proper nutrients allows the body to function at its normal capacity, while also restoring your body to normal health (Check out these easy recipes that boost the immune system, too!)
Your body needs a lot of water. With things such as fevers or other symptoms that occur during illness, the body can easily dehydrate. It is important to make sure hydration levels are at an appropriate level so that your body is ready to function at its top performance. As your body exercises more, it will naturally dehydrate. Therefore making sure to get plenty of water is crucial for re-introducing any training plan.
4. Schedule Rest Time
So you’re off schedule. That’s okay! Illness is something that happens to everyone, and it does not bother with your schedule. Although you may not be able to control when a pesky cold hits, you can control how you ease into your normal workout routine after illness. With all things, it is important to think of how much you can handle. If your lungs were affected due to your illness, that is a consideration when trying to reboot a workout. Scheduling intentional time to rest (and getting good sleep, too) is one of the best ways to ensure your routine goes to plan.
5. Be Kind to Yourself
Your body is not where it was pre-illness. That is okay. Recognizing the work you need to do, while also realizing your current state is a result of your body working hard to fight with a robust immune response is important. The first gym session back is not going to be race-ready. Instead, taking the time to listen to your body and celebrate the fact that you are back doing what you love is crucial in getting back to the routine!
6. Avoid the ‘What I Missed’ Mindset
One of the hardest things to avoid is the mentality that you missed out while you were sick. As someone who is used to top performance, a roadblock can be detrimental to feelings of accomplishment. Instead of thinking about time spent sick as time wasted, focusing on the road ahead will serve your routine and stamina.
7. Ease Into The Routine
According to Runner’s World, if you are participating in a training plan, it is important to not jump in where you left out. As the body has been fighting off illness, it will take some time to adjust to exertion caused by exercise. Coach Jenny from Runner’s World suggests that for every day spent ill, to add two to three days of recovery. This means restructuring training plans to account for rest and paying attention to how the body feels as it delves back into exercise.
8. Increase Difficulty
If you have been sick for five days, that means it will take anywhere from ten to fifteen days to restore your body to its full exercise capacity. As your body grows accustomed to the excursion, you will be able to tell how much you can handle. Listen to how your body responds to the training, and make sure to ease off if necessary. As you recover, you can increase intensity as your body uses exercise to heal
9. Work on Mobility
A good baseline for exercise is increasing mobility slowly, especially after illness. Mobility is the baseline for all exercise (just think of the joints needed to complete a run, or the form for a good deadlift), therefore it should be prioritized as you gear back into training. To ensure your joints are strong and ready for wear and tear, try collagen to increase the collagen supply your body produces.
10. Supplement Healing
Your immune system has been through a lot and deserves support in your exercise endeavor. As your body’s immune system utilizes a lot of your body’s energy to fight off illness, it is good to consider how to help the body recover. In this case, supplements such as ACV gummies can give you the boost you need to make sure your body has its best defense against other illnesses that may harm exercising. Prioritizing your immune support as you get back into the groove of exercise can ensure that you put your best foot forward after illness.