Exercising When You’re Sick: Should You or Shouldn’t You?

For the past week I’ve been fighting something, a cold, the flu, I don’t know, but I can sure tell you that it is making me miserable.


I’ve probably done about half of the workouts I had planned, which is totally making me feel like a slacker.  When it comes to working out when sick, depending on how sick I’m feeling, I’ll usually either scale down my typical routine or take some extra rest days.  I started feeling sick on Thursday, so I took a much needed rest day that day.  On Friday I skipped my morning Body Pump class at the gym because I was feeling horrible, but started feeling a bit better later in the day, so I did a DVD at home.  On Saturday, I really wanted to meet up with my run club for our weekly run, and even though I felt sick, I went and did it anyway.  That was a horrible run.  I felt so gassed and my pace was about a minute slower per mile than usual.  I also had a 2 hour yoga workshop later that day that I didn’t want to miss, so I sucked it up again and went to that.  On Sunday, I was feeling even worse, so I took a rest day again.  On Monday, I was planning on running, but felt really yucky when I woke up, so opted for a bike ride instead.  I probably should have rested again because I woke up on Tuesday feeling the worse I’ve felt so far.  So…another rest day.

rest day

It’s so hard getting sick when you’re training for something (my something being my first triathlon).  I feel guilty for not sucking it up and doing the workouts anyway.  I feel like a slacker, a baby, a wuss.  I feel drained and sluggish, partially due to being sick, but also partially due to not exercising.  My appetite is all out of wack and my muscles feel weak.

When you’re training for an event and you’ve got a schedule to stick to, what happens when you get sick?  You know all those workouts are important, so how do you help your body get better, but also stick with your plan?  After doing a bit of research online, it seems the consensus is the “neck check.”  If your symptoms are above the neck, you’re probably okay to run, but if they’re below the neck, you should rest.   Ashley Erickson from Wommen’s Running Magazine wrote an article about this very topic here, and also included this handy flow chart to check if you should rest, scale down your training plan, or go full steam ahead.


According to this flow chart, I should be resting since some of my symptoms are below the neck. Not ideal, but this will at least ease a little bit of the guilt I’ve been feeling.  My pity party just got a little less pitiful.


So tell me, do you suck it up and stick to your training plan when you get sick, take a break and rest, or something in between?  Do you want to join my pity party?


4 thoughts on “Exercising When You’re Sick: Should You or Shouldn’t You?

  1. Getting sick and working out is the worst. I usually tell myself that working out or running will make me feel better, but it almost always does the opposite! Going to just embrace the extra rest days lol

  2. It depends on the sickness. If it’s a cold or allergies, I try to work out and if I start feeling worse while exercising, I stop. But if you have something more serious, I definitely take it easy. I listen to my body and it tells me what I can and can’t do. But I too hate missing exercise days, so I understand!

    • Yes, listening to the body is key! There’s nothing worse than thinking you’re all better and trying to go out full steam ahead and realizing you’re just not 100% yet. I am so guilty of that!

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