People who exercise regularly can be a pretty stubborn bunch. I should know; I’m one of them! That stubbornness is a good thing when it comes to training consistently but can cause problems when you are ill or injured as it may make you reluctant to miss a workout.
Sometimes it’s okay to exercise through illness or injury, but other times it just makes things worse and could even delay your recovery. The trick is knowing when it’s okay to soldier on, and when retreat is your better option.
Let’s talk about illness first…
As a rule, if an illness affects you from your neck up, you are safe to exercise. That means things like head colds and sore throats.
In contrast, if an illness affects you from the neck down, it's probably best you skip your workout. Chesty coughs, and stomach upsets fall into this category. You should also skip your workout if you have any hint of a fever.
Many people try and take the approach of “sweating out" the illness, but this is usually not a good idea.
When you are ill, your body needs to use resources for your recovery. When you train, it also needs those same recovery resources. In essence, you end up “double dipping” on your restoration resources and won’t recover well from your workouts or whatever is ailing you.
If you are experiencing anything other than a mild illness, a few days off training are just what the doctor ordered.
Your fellow gym attendees will also be grateful if you make yourself scarce for a few days so they won’t catch whatever it is you’ve got! If you still feel unwell, make sure you visit your doctor for an expert opinion.
Make sure you exercise common sense when dealing with an injury. If you are unlucky enough to suffer an injury, make sure you do first seek out medical advice from your doctor or other trained professional first.
It is best to learn what is really going on so you don’t risk making it a lot worse or causing permanent damage. Sometimes complete rest, although hard, is what needs to happen.
However, some injuries can also often be trained around – which is something most of us have had to do from time to time.
It's just a matter of figuring out which movements and exercises you can perform without causing you any pain in the area. it's rarely a good idea to try and train through pain as you'll only delay that recovery time and make things worse!
If you have to take a complete break from the gym, it is not the end of the world. Coming back to the gym from a long break can seem daunting, but you will get back to your old self in no time at all.
Injured your lower body?
Then you should have no problem training your upper body while you heal. In many cases, this will actually enhance the recovery process giving you a dose of those exercise-induced endorphins to help you maintain a positive outlook. This positive mental attitude can enhance the healing process.
Managed to hurt one side of your body?
You may find that training the non-injured side helps preserve strength and function. This is called cross education. For example, if you break your left arm, train your right arm and you will maintain muscle mass and strength in the injured side. Cool, right?!
Once you feel better, and are cleared to, its best to return to full training carefully and gradually, trying not to push the area too hard.
Remember, one of the benefits of training is the positive effect it has on your health. Don’t undo that benefit by confusing dedication for stubbornness! If you really need to take a break from training to shake off an illness or injury, you aren’t being lazy; you are just being smart!