A blog for (semi) athletic middle-aged men (and women) holding on to (the last vestiges of) their youth
by training for and competing in running, cycling, swimming and triathlon events!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Should You Take a Break from Workouts When You're Sick?

All my travel on airplanes, and subsequent exposure to every nasty bug carried by the thousands of travelers I have encountered in the cramped confines of coach class, finally caught up to me this week. And I got bit hard. It started with a scratchy throat that turned into head congestion which has now migrated south to my chest. All I know is my body has manufactured, and expelled, more mucous in the past five days than I thought humanly possibe (where does it all come from?)!
Being sick sucks. But what's really bugging me is that I haven't been able to ride, run or engage in any semblance of exercise whatsoever for five straight days. The question is should I try to force myself to workout in spite of feeling lousy or just let my body focus on fighting this bug?

According to this article on WebMD, it's OK to workout when sick as long as you don't have a fever (you don't want to raise an already elevated body temperature). But I haven't been running a fever. The problem is that I just haven't felt like working out. So am I a wimp?

OK, so this is not me (nor do I have any desire to look like this!),
but I thought it was a good illustration of the "neck check" method.

Several articles I read (including this one from Men's Health) recommend gauging whether or not to work out based on whether the symptoms are in your head (literally, not psychosomatic!) or in your chest. It makes sense, since you need your lungs to be functioning properly to get the oxygen your body needs during an intense workout. 
"Do what you can do, and if you can't do it, then don't." 
  •  Lewis G. Maharam, MD, a New York City-based sports medicine expert
But even before the congestion drained from my head to my chest I simply couldn't motivate myself to move. And now I guess I just have to wait for my lungs to clear. And I'm OK with that. Dr. Maharam pretty much summed up my feelings on the subject in the quote above. I try to listen to my body, whether its an injury or an illness, and follow it's lead.

The good news is I haven't gained any weight despite burning far fewer calories in the past several days. Perhaps that's because I haven't really had much of an appetite. But I am sure ready to get back to consuming and burning at a higher rate in the near future!

Do you have a personal prescription for staying in shape while fighting an illness? If so, please comment and share!

Ride on!


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