Updated: May 27, 2020
It's that time of year when it seems that everyone has the same cold - headache, runny nose, achy muscles and/or sinus infection. If you're working toward a weight loss or fitness goal, you're probably wondering if you should "suck it up" and still fit your workout in while you recover from your cold.
Today, I'm breaking down exactly why this HINDERS your weight loss and fitness goals and what you should be doing instead.
But First, Here's What Happens When You Exercise
When you exercise, particularly with workouts such as strength training or HIIT (high intensity interval training), your body is tearing down your muscles. This might sound dramatic, but this muscle teardown is a crucial first step to building stronger muscles. It's the tear down that signals to your body that it needs to send a repair crew to your muscles. The majority of this repair happens while you sleep, which is why you may notice that after a workout you feel a little more sore the next day.
If this repair does not happen, your muscles stay "broken down" while the signal to repair (aka inflammation) stays high.
And Here's What Happens When You're Sick
The symptoms we associate with a cold - coughing, runny nose, fever - aren't caused by the virus that lead to the cold itself. Instead, these are natural inflammatory responses by your body to help protect itself from the virus spreading or doing further damage. This means your body is working to help you get better and spending a ton of it's own resources in the process.
But with all of these resources being directed to fighting the infection, there isn't much left for other activities. This is why you can feel worlds better after a few nights of long, deep sleep when you're sick - you're giving your body the time and energy to dedicate itself to making you healthy again.
The Disastrous Combination
When you combine the high amount of energy and resources required to repair your muscles after a workout with the demands of inflammation battling a virus, this leaves your body exhausted. Working out while sick can lead to a rationing of "supplies" between these two demands and not quite providing enough for either to do the job. For this reason, if you workout while you are also sick, it can prolong your cold.
What You Can Do Instead
If you are in the thick of your cold, then the best thing you can do is rest. This equates to going to bed earlier, sleeping in longer, taking baths or hot showers and lightly stretching and foam rolling. Once you are around 80% better, you can start to slowly implement lower intensity exercise like walking or yoga. These are less taxing on your body and allow you to move while you recover from your cold. A rule of thumb I personally follow is to wait until I am 90-95% better before implementing my previous workout routine. This means no more headaches or muscle aches, but perhaps a runny nose and a slight cough.
Instead of over-taxing your body by working out while sick, focus on healing your cold so that you can get back to your normal routine faster! You can check out everything I do to naturally speed up the healing process HERE.