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Working Out With a Cold: Power Through or Take a Rest?

working out with a cold

Photo credit: iStockPhoto

Ugh, it’s here.

The season of the big C, one of my least favorite four letter words. The Cold.

Just the other day I was outside sweating in shorts and a tank top, and now here I am sniffling and coughing, trying to pretend it’s just a late case of summer allergies. But considering cold season starts in early September as the weather starts to head towards the impending winter, I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised. (What I am surprised about? There are Christmas decorations out already. Seriously, it’s September.)

But back to the cold. I forget about this internal debate I have with myself so often during the winter when the weather’s gorgeous and we can spend most of our days outside in the summer, but I’m quickly reminded of it with the change in season: whether to exercise when sick or not.

My unofficial guideline for exercising while sick or taking it easy? If its above the neck go for it. If its below the neck, take a rest. (I definitely didn’t come up with that “rule,” but I certainly follow it.) It’s no fun exercising when your lungs are congested anyways, but it could also keep you sick longer. Even if it is just in your head, sometimes rest is just what you need. Your body needs the energy to heal and rejuvenate. It’s hard to remember, but missing a few days won’t derail a workout plan.

Here are a few of the questions I run through my (congested) head to help me make the decision as to whether I should be working out with a cold or not:

  • Fever? Opt for the couch, not the treadmill
  • Coughing or chest congestion? Take a breather. Let it clear up before pounding the pavement.
  • Body aches? Don’t add to the pain, add a rest day.
  • Sniffles? Your call, but it’s probably ok to continue on as you normally would.
  • Can’t decide? Try compromising and taking your workout down a notch. WebMD says it should be safe to exercise with a cold, but always listen to your body.

Tips for feeling better faster so you can back in the gym:

  • Your mom was right about chicken soup. Only it doesn’t have to be chicken and it doesn’t have to be soup – just be sure to take in plenty of fluids!
  • If your throat hurts try tea or a mug of hot water with lemon and honey. I love the relief from a honey-coated throat. Plus it tastes good, if you’re lucky enough to be able to taste through your cold.
  • To help ease congestion try a hot, steamy shower, or a hot shower with a tab that releases menthol when wet. Deep breaths! (<—my favorite!)
  • Cough drops, zinc lozenges, and cold meds are always an option to help relieve symptoms as well, although meds aren’t usually my first option.

Don’t wait until it’s too late: here are 8 tips for warding off flu season.

What are your tips and tricks for warding off a cold? How do you decide whether it’s time for a rest day or if you just need to suck it up and power through?

 

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