Is It OK to Run and Workout When You Are Sick?

Written by Nuno Costa

As coaches we get asked this question all the time – is it ok to workout when you are sick? The answer is not that simple…It usually depends on what your symptoms are. Anytime I go into the doctor with some sort of illness, that’s usually my first question – when can I get back to working out?

It’s in Your Head

From what I have read online, and by asking as many experts as possible – the common answer I get is: If your symptoms are above the neck then you are fine to exercise at moderate intensity. This means dialing back the intensity on your run and CrossFit workouts. You will not lose a lot of fitness by doing so and it may help you get better more quickly.

You Got Hit by a Bus

If you have severe flu/cold-like symptoms where you ache everywhere and have a hard time moving or doing anything at all – your best bet is going to be to rest until you feel better. If you’ve got a fever, make sure your body temperature returns to normal before working out again. No need in coming in and raising your body temperature even more.

Running with the Runs

What about stomach issues? I’ve had run workouts that I tried to push through with stomach issues and that was highly unpleasant – let it pass, no need in having an accident in the middle of your run/workout…

Sample Sickness – Sinus Infection

I will give you a couple of examples of recent illnesses – this past week I came down with a sinus infection and it hit me super hard. My head felt like it was going to explode from the inside out. My body felt fine, I didn’t have aches, pains, had a minor cough but the head congestion alone made me feel like I couldn’t do anything. I promptly went to the doctor and started some antibiotics – and of course I asked him when I could get back to training – to which he replied, “If you feel up to it the day after.” I ended up waiting two days, and by the 3rd day, I finally felt like my head had cleared enough to be able to move. As I did so, I made sure to lower my intensity on the workout and not to over do it. My goal is always to be healthy first and I need to make sure my actions are in alignment with my goals.

Sample Sickness – Strep Throat

Another example I can give – I have had strep throat the past couple of years and I managed it better the most recent bout. A couple of years ago, I didn’t quite realize what I had come down with, was coaching a seminar and we did a lunchtime workout that floored me. Needless to say, that was not a smart decision and I paid for it. The most recent case of strep, I caught it early enough and decided to give my body complete rest for a few days – it took me a good 5 days or so before I was able to do anything. My body did not want to move, it ached and I didn’t think working out was going to make it any better, if anything it was going to make it worse.

Mounting Your Comeback

Make sure you aren’t contagious before you go back to the gym. Usually I will wait until I have been on antibiotics for 24-48 hours to make sure I am not going to affect others. Let people know you are under the weather so they don’t hug you or shake your hands – do what you can to prevent it from getting passed on. Make sure you wash your hands as much as possible, use hand sanitizer more than usual if you are a little under the weather and make sure you wipe off all your equipment thoroughly.

Ease back into your training. It could take a few days to even a few weeks before you start feeling 100% again. Adjust not only your intensity during this time, but take into account your depleted energy when attacking strength workouts as well. You probably won’t be able to follow the prescribed percentages right off. And even if you can, you probably shouldn’t.