Winter colds and viruses can wreak havoc on your fitness plans and goals. But you don’t necessarily have to dodge the gym just because you’ve got the sniffles. Although that tickly cough is worrying. It’s decision time. Do you push through the symptoms, or slow down your routine?
Here are some things to check:
Above the neck - If you have symptoms above the neck (stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, headache, sore throat) it is fine to do a light workout. Scientists have shown that mild cold viruses do not affect people’s ability to exercise moderately and their lung capacity remains normal.
What constitutes a ‘light workout’? Sprinting isn’t a good idea, but a 15-minute jog on the treadmill would be ok.
Below the neck - Any symptoms below the neck, give your workout a miss, regardless of how you feel. Exercising with major cold symptoms like a chesty cough, wheezing or nausea, or system-wide symptoms like fever or aching, will prolong your illness and may risk dehydration and even passing out.
Still not sure whether to train or not? Check your resting heart rate. Anything more than 10 beats above normal is an indicator that your body is working hard to battle a virus and extra stress wouldn’t help.
The fact is that long, hard exercise compromises the immune system for up to nine hours, which enables a virus to strengthen. When your body is already fighting a bad cold it’s counterproductive to pile on additional stress.
Monitor how you feel and stay well hydrated. Avoid getting cold and wet and watch out for any signs of overdoing it like dizziness, nausea and weakness. Eat plenty of foods to strengthen your immune system. Try a gentle 10-minute workout and see how it feels. If that’s ok continue gradually increasing the length of your workouts.
I read about the neck check thing years ago and have always stuck to it since, and it really does seem to work.
and please - don't come to the gym with a streaming cold. The rest of us don't want to pick it up!