Why you do NOT want to go to the gym tomorrow…

Therese Martinez

Oh, CoreFit. Your gym. Your happy place. Your wonderful outlet from real life that allows you to get away -if just for an hour- to sweat it out, punch it out, and lift it out during these gruesome cold, winter months while the outdoors are particularly frigid and unappealing. But wait, what is that I hear? Coughing? What is that I see? A dripping nose? What is that I feel? Someone’s sneeze?? And who is out with the flu this week? Why, why must all the germs come to your safe haven?


Well, I hear ya, and we have been working on tackling the big debate of if coming to the gym when you’re sick is good to “sweat it out” or if its compromising your immune system further. The topic has become quite widespread (not unlike the 15 different strains of illness going around), so a blog post seemed appropriate.

Is coming to the gym when you’re sick a smart choice, or potentially more harmful?

To be clear: When I say “coming to the gym” I mean engaging in the workout, breathing heavily, sweating, and working hard. Not just coming and doing some recovery work on the airdyne coupled with mobility.  I also want to recognize that not all illnesses are created equal. There is a difference between a cold and the full-on flu. I don’t think many of you are trying to workout at the peak of your flu, but there are definitely preemptive warning signs that could help the safety of your fellow athletes if you made SURE you either stayed away from the gym entirely, or follow safety precautions when at the gym (sanitizing everything you touch, covering your mouth when coughing, washing hands after blowing your nose, etc.) as well as a recovery period that should be treated with caution.


So, for starters, let’s look at what to do when you have a cold. You’re coughing, sneezing, slightly lower energy, congested, but feel like you SHOULD workout-either to stay in routine, not lose those gains, or you’re just looking to get out and move some. Well, I have good news and bad news. Your body is in a state of stress. It is trying to heal. Exercise (high intensity, sweaty, challenging exercise) puts your body in an even greater stressed out state when compounded with your illness. However, not all exercise can put you in a worse off state.


Exercises to avoid when sick: high intensity and/or prolonged exercise (different for each individual, but around 1-3 hours of moderate-intense training). These can leave you more susceptible to infection and can depress your immune system.


Exercises to embrace: The couch is not necessarily your best friend when you aren’t feeling well. Lower intensity workouts can be very beneficial in actually boosting the immune system, and may also play roles in decreasing mental stresses (walking outdoors, yoga, tai chi) which will improve your body’s overall ability to fight the illness.  Coming to the gym and largely decreasing the intensity of the workout may be appropriate, but with MANY precautions with your stage of contagion. Gym-etiquette dictates you try to keep your workout outside or at home while in your initial stages with your worst symptoms (often at least 5 days).


If you have a fever or flu, PLEASE stay home. You will want to follow the “exercises to embrace” after you have broken the fever for at least 24 hours, and even then, it may be wise to keep it low-key for another 3-5 days. Working out too soon after one of these illnesses will make it much harder to recover and bounce back into your training well. Listen to your body. If your muscles are still aching, your head still pounding, and energy still low, it’s not a good idea to come bust out a CoreFit WOD.


I know time away from the gym sucks. I know it feels like you will lose so much and you have come so far, but I assure you if you take the time to heal, you will be able to come bounce back full force. It may take a few workouts to get your body used to moving again, but it will happen. Take the time to stretch, foam roll, work on mobility, and, dare I say it, focus on diet?! Nutrition is HUGE while you recover from illness and the time away from the gym can still be incredibly productive. Look up some nutrient dense delicious soup recipes, start planning for when you’re back on your feet and those awesome meals you’re going to make to help keep you healthy and strong once this sickness is done.  And please, wash your hands, cover your mouth, and try not to bring the germs to the gym.

Therese Martinez, MS, RD, CPT

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