04 Jan Should you Workout with a Cold?
You’re finally in a routine. You’re getting a regular workout. Your diet is going well. Then it happens. You wake up with a blocked nose, running to the shop for tissues and cough syrup. Cold season is here.
But should you keep up with your workouts while you’re fighting your cold, or should you skip it and come back strong next time?
This really depends on the situation. Whether or not you should exercise is generally split up into symptoms being ‘above the neck’ and ‘below the neck’.
Symptoms Above the neck
Exercise at a lower intensity than normal.
Symptoms above the neck generally refer to things like a blocked nose, sneezing, light head pain. If your symptoms are only above the neck, it is often safe to exercise at a lower intensity than you would when you are at 100%.
You should lower the intensity of your workout. Use lighter weights when you’re lifting, run a bit slower than usual, take longer rest periods. Gauge how you’re feeling throughout the session and don’t be afraid to lower the intensity further or even cut the workout short if you need to.
Ideally you should do your workout in your home or somewhere there will be low risk of infecting other people. If you are exercising in a gym or another communal space, be considerate. You will not make any friends if you start spreading your cold around the gym, making everyone else sick! Wash your hands regularly, wipe down the equipment, and bring your own water bottle. Being in the middle of a set is no excuse to openly sneeze into the gym, casting your germs out into the air like you’re feeding the birds at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
It’s also important to be safe with your choice of exercises. If you’re sneezing a lot, perhaps today isn’t the best day to do any overhead pressing. Be sensible and choose exercises which are safe and easy. And remember to stay hydrated with plenty of water!
Symptoms Below the neck
Ditch the workout – go to bed.
Symptoms below the neck are things like coughing, nausea, chest pain, shortness of breath, etc. If you have these, you’re better off just skipping the workout entirely. These could be signs of a more serious illness than “just a cold”.
If you push yourself to workout regardless of your symptoms, you risk making yourself feel worse. You’d be better off taking time to rest and recover. You can get back to training properly when you’re well again!
Obviously, this is just general guidance and you need to take the decision of whether to exercise when you’re ill very seriously. If you are at all unsure, see you GP before you start exercising.
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Philip has several years experience as a strength and conditioning coach for competitive athletes, and as an exercise referral specialist focusing on exercise in clinical populations. Over his years as a coach he has trained clients to manage and reduce risk for various conditions and diseases, and to compete in several disciplines at various levels. As a Master (MSc) of Sport and Exercise Science and Medicine, Philip is also passionate about health and exercise research and has presented his work at various events. He is currently a PhD researcher at the Leicester Diabetes Centre and hopes to share the knowledge he has gained with as many people as possible.