After spending the past few days or even weeks bed ridden from being sick, you may be itching to get back to training after missing so much time off. But the most important rule is to listen to your body – because if you return to working out too soon or do not stop when you are sick, you can relapse or intensify the symptoms.
The nature and location of your symptoms is an important determinant of whether you should stay in your slippers or in your runners. We must differentiate between ‘above the neck’ symptoms such as runny or stuffy nose, watery eyes or a mild sore throat. ‘Below the neck’ ones are a cough, a congested or tight chest, an upset stomach, muscle aches or fever. If your symptoms are above the neck and you feel OK, it is fine to do a light work out. Research from Ball State University in Indiana found that infecting subjects with a mild cold virus did not affect their ability to exercise moderately. Lung capacity of the infected subjects was the same as that of the healthy ones, and running on a treadmill for 15 min felt no harder.
Ever heard of the old saying “sweating out a cold”? Is there any truth to this? Well, bringing up your body temperature is a way of fighting a virus. Keep the activity light to moderate and brief. Hard exercise compromises the immune system, allowing a virus to strengthen its hold. When you have a fever, you should not work out because your body temperature is already too high. Working out naturally raises your body temperature and elevates your heart rate. You do not want to intensify the effects of a fever with physical exertion. The body is already under stress in fighting the infection, so adding additional stress through vigorous exercise will do more harm than good. This could lead to loosing too much water or fainting.
It is very important to return to exercise with caution. Monitor how you feel, make sure you stay well hydrated (particularly if you have had a stomach bug), avoid getting wet and cold and look out for signs that you are overdoing it such as a work out feeling harder than it should, shortness of breath, weakness or dizziness. Remember to:
- Stay well hydrated
- Eat and drink after training
- Take some multivitamins or probiotics
- Don’t overtrain
- Wash your hands after the gym
- Don’t linger in damp clothing after exercise