Working Out When You're Sick: A Do or a Don't

It’s official. I have a sick fiancรฉ.

Poor Ryan came home from work yesterday feeling stuffy and achy. We took it easy last night, thinking he might wake up feeling better.

Not the case. He is very congested and feels sick every time he stands up.

Needless to say, he’s home from work for the day. He thought he might be able to go in after lunch, but didn’t feel any better by the time noon rolled around.

Lucky for him, I work less than two miles from our apartment, so I was able to swing by at lunchtime to bring him a hot meal.

I stopped by Pei Wei and ordered the Mongolian beef, Ryan’s favorite meal, to go. I also substituted the white rice for egg noodles because Pei Wei’s noodles are doughy and delicious!

Pei Wei

When I arrived at our apartment with a Pei Wei bag in hand, Ryan’s eyes lit up.

We split the meal between us, though I got all of the mushrooms and Ryan got the majority of the beef.

Mmm, Beefy

I loved all of the scallions!

For dessert we each enjoyed a fortune cookie.

Behold... The Future.

Well, I ate my cookie on the way to our apartment as an appetizerโ€ฆ but Ryan ate his at the appropriate time. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Check out my fortune:


Not too shabby!

Working Out When You’re Sick: A Do or a Don’t

Ryan’s sick state, coupled with an email I received from blog reader Simone, inspired me to touch on working out when you’re feeling under the weather.

Sick as a Dog

As a general rule of thumb, I think that if you’re feeling sick, your body needs rest and nurturing, not sweat sessions at the gym. However, I totally understand the desire to get a good work out in when you’re not throwing up or feeling nauseous.

Of course, I am no expert, but when I am trying to decide whether or not to work out when I don’t feel my best, I use these tips:

  • Does the thought of a workout exhaust you? If simply imagining yourself working out makes you feel exhausted, skip the gym.
  • Simply sniffles? If you’re simply fighting a case of the sniffles and generally feel okay otherwise, a workout is probably okay. Just be sure to clean off any machines and equipment you use!
  • Tone it down. If you’re just starting to feel better and want to get back into the gym, try working out at a lower intensity. Take a yoga class, walk on the treadmill or enjoy a light workout on the elliptical with a magazine. Ease back into your normal intensity workouts. You don’t want to exhaust yourself on your first day back in the gym.

I really love the Mayo Clinic’s approach to working out when you’re sick:

  • Proceed with your workout if your signs and symptoms are “above the neck” โ€” such as runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing or sore throat. Be prepared to reduce the intensity of your workout if needed, however.
  • Postpone your workout if your signs and symptoms are “below the neck” โ€” such as chest congestion, hacking cough or upset stomach. Likewise, don’t exercise if you have a fever, fatigue or widespread muscle aches.

If you choose to exercise when you’re sick, listen to your body. If your signs and symptoms get worse with physical activity, stop and rest. Resume your workout routine gradually as you begin to feel better.

Of Possible Interest


  1. Chelsea @ Strawberry Sweat says

    I totally agree with all of your suggestions about working out. It’s really about “listening” to your body. There are times when I’ve gotten on the treadmill and realized after 5 minutes that my illness and working out just weren’t going to mix.

    And lunch looks delicious! I too love Pei Wei!


  2. says

    I love this post! I am actually home sick today too – I feel ya, Ryan!

    I was so disappointed to not be able to do my workout this morning – I’m also a firm above/below the neck rule follower! And a tone-it-downer ๐Ÿ™‚

    However, if I’m feeling under the weather at all, I usually skip the workout and just get some fresh air by going on a walk.

    My philosophy? If I’m on the brink of getting something and have symptoms, don’t push it! Just like you said, simply tone it down or take a rest day – rest days are important for both muscle recovery and keeping your whole body healthy. Ain’t nothin wrong with that ๐Ÿ™‚


  3. Amanda at Run4Ayden says

    I LOVE Pei Wei! I wish the had them in Jacksonville!

    Another HUGE thing I consider when I’m sick is skipping the gym. I try to keep my workouts solo when I’m sick. It’s not fair to others to bring your germs into the gym to share! A run, long walk, bike ride, or workout DVD are my choices when I’m not feeling so great!


  4. Sarah says

    This was a really good post–thanks for sharing! I’m always conflicted when it comes to working out when I’m sick. I don’t want to get too out of practice, but I don’t want to put too much strain on my body, either. I usually go with the “above/below the neck” rule and tone everything down.

    Hopefully Ryan feels better soon!


  5. MJ says

    It really does depend on what’s wrong and how you feel. I’ve been sick with a lung infection for 2 weeks now, I go back to my doctor tonight since I’m still short of breath just from walking, I want to exercise but with this infection I just don’t have the energy and I get winded very quickly.


  6. says

    Get well soon Ryan! I agree, workout out when you’re feeling sick, especially nauseous, is a bad idea. It’s not the end of the world if you miss a few workouts. It’s better to be safe and rest than sorry!


  7. Katie says

    I love Pei Wei! Chinese food in general is so good, and you’re right on the noodles instead of rice. That was so sweet of you to bring that home. Hope Ryan will be feeling better, that’s no fun!


  8. says

    Ahhh I love Pei Wei’s food. Their tofu is THE best. Haven’t been in a while though. Last time I was there they accidentally charged my card twice and the manager was kind of rude to me ๐Ÿ™

    Luckily I don’t get sick too often, but living in a dorm that’s always a risky environment for coming down with something. I had mono last year which was awful but thank goodness it didn’t last too long. Thanks so much for the good info! I’ll remember this for myself or if I need to pass it along for any friends who get sick.


  9. says

    If I don’t feel well I usually just skip the workout anyway — I’d rather rest! But if I’m training for an event of some kind, then I start my workout and if I’m not feeling any better I call it quits!


  10. says

    I loved this post–thanks for the tips! I am terrible at listening to my body when I’m sick and I always tend to work out, even when I probably shouldn’t. Thanks for the Mayo clinic tip, too–that is really helpful! I hope Ryan feels better!


  11. says

    I hope Ryan gets well soon!
    My mom always says that I should not exercise or move to much when I feel a bit sick, because that all could turn into a pretty big mess.
    She’s an infectologist, so I listen to her ๐Ÿ˜€


  12. says

    Hi! I found your blog today and loved it! Spent a good portion of my day reading it ๐Ÿ™‚ I recently entered the blog world as well and it’s been fun seeing how many other girls my age are out there doing the same thing! Good luck with the wedding planning. I look forward to reading more on your blog!


  13. Caitlin says

    Feel better Ryan!

    I used to workout no matter what (but I was a competitive athlete and a Type-A personality, so the rules were a bit different), but now I take breaks if I feel sick. Sometimes I get really sick and have to miss a bunch of workouts in a row =( but that is better than exasperating my illness!


  14. Andrea says

    I agree what you say but I would add, if you are working out at a gym in which everyone uses, do the non sick people a favor, and stay home or do something outdoors.


  15. says

    awww poor ryan! i was sick last week & what he has sounds just like what i had. ๐Ÿ™ bummer. i totally follow the above/below the neck rule too. it’s just important to listen to your body. i ran twice last week (once when i was getting sick, the other time when i thought i was better). the 2nd time was such a mistake! fortunately i was feeling up to a 5k i had already registered for on sat but i just took it easy and did the best i could. you don’t wanna end up sicker because you’re stubborn!


  16. Nicola says

    I never know what to do when i’m sick, even if I do have a runny/blocked nose it is so annoying having to take tissues with you. I have had a blocked/runny nose like all winter it is so annoying!
    Being sick and missing sessions always stuffs me around, I end like not going again for like 2 weeks.
    Hope ryan is feeling better!



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