Working Out When Not Feeling Well

Friday, March 23, 2018
Working Out When Not Feeling Well

Recently, I’ve been working out at a gym other than the one I own. It’s a bit weird, but I’m giving it a try. Even as a trainer, it’s good to have someone else coach you, see how your body moves and give you ideas on how to improve you lifts and movements.

The other day I had signed up for an evening workout at this gym. It was a group class I had done before and really liked. I was looking forward to it all day, but as the day progressed, I developed a really bad headache. It got so bad I almost cancelled one of my afternoon clients as I started feeling nauseated. It was on the verge of a really bad migraine. My day had been really stressful--probably one of the most stressful days I’ve had in a long time; therefore, I knew my headache was related to the stress since I had eaten well and knew nothing else was wrong with my body.

My dilemma was, “Do I work out, or do I cancel?” Being a client in this instance, I realized my clients that I train probably go through similar situations when they feel sick or have headaches. So, I thought I would provide some information on being sick, stressed, having a headache or anything that makes you feel compromised for a workout, and deciding whether you should cancel or push through it.

  1. Know your personality type. If you’re a Type-A personality, your tendency will most likely be to push through anything. You don’t want a little headache or sore throat to slow you down. If you’re more adverse to risk or pain, you might be more apt to cancel quickly at the thought of not feeling well. It’s important to know your propensities.
  2. What kind of physical infirmity do you have? Sore throat, fever, headache, body aches, etc.….? (See chart below.)
  3. Why are you working out? Is your workout just a mental break from work? Are you training for a fitness event? Knowing this will help you decide whether continuing is a going to help you accomplish your goals or not. Sometimes rest and sleep can be more beneficial than working out.

If you answer the questions above which only you will know, then you need to decide. Here is a general guideline I use for myself. Hopefully it’s helpful to some of you.

Generally OK to workout Generally NOT OK to workout
sore throat fever
sinus congestion nausea
cold stomach problems
allergies vomiting
hormone imbalance diarrhea

Headaches are a grey area.

  • If you struggle with frequent migraines, then you will know how much you can do and when to stop.
  • If you rarely get headaches, then knowing the cause is important. If it’s precipitating an oncoming illness, be cautious.
  • If it’s because the weather change and you get pressure in your sinuses, you’re probably ok to work out. Just check in with yourself during the workout. How’s your breathing? Listen to your body.
  • It can also be related to diet, dehydration, and other issues that have nothing to do with being sick. If you feel it’s related to diet or dehydration, you need to fuel your body correctly before doing intense workouts. Being completely dehydrated and doing an intense workout is not a good idea. Your body is giving you a clue it hasn’t been treated correctly, and your system isn’t function the way it should. Be cautious.
  • Is it heat induced? Slow down. You can literally kill yourself (i.e. heat stroke) if you over do it in super-hot temperatures.

Lastly, listen to your body. If you just don’t feel well enough to workout, don’t. If you think you can, and your symptoms are in the “generally ok” category, give it a shot. If you start feeling worse, stop.

Disclaimer: Obviously, I have addressed minor illnesses and have not addressed anything chronic, heart-related, disease-related, or many other issues that affect the way we feel. Please use caution with the information above and take into account everything your body is going through.

Some information in this blog has been sourced from the Mayo Clinic, read more here:

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