Guest Post · holidays

It’s easy to get lazy! Return to training during or after a cold? (Guest post)

Over the holidays I was hit by a pretty bad cold. 7 days straight of very high fever, sore throat, congestion, and coughing. My immune system is hyper-reactive and the nukes were out to destroy the bug. But it did not work this time. It lasted its full 10 days. And now beyond the 10 days I still feel somewhat congested.
Despite all signs, I went out running on day 5. Admittedly, I did not have any fever that morning and thought “That’s it, I am winning this!” This was a very slow run even if I felt like I was pushing. And at the end of the day I could tell by how I was feeling that it had been a mistake to go out. Did it extend my cold? Who knows. This is hard to say. And advice out there on whether one should run or train with a cold is sometimes contradictory. Most will say if you have fever, don’t. But unless one has a working and reliable thermometer (I don’t) it can be hard to tell (add to the mix the occasional hot flashes induced by peri-menopause and, voilà! Is it fever? Is it a hot flash?)
So after that 5th day outing, I waited another 4 days before engaging in any training. During that time, one wonders: am I just being lazy? Surely I could (should?) push myself and do it. When I did train, it was indoors because I was still somewhat feverish and did not feel like running outside in the wet cold. So I did weight training and leg exercises. I thought: “good plan! This won’t go against my less than optimal oxygen intake because of my congestion.” That was without thinking about muscular weakness caused by the cold. I don’t think I have ached like this in a very long time! I went out for a run the next day and pulled something in my thigh. Good job! But again, I was questioning whether I was just being lazy. It is so easy to get lazy, right? Stay warm inside and lounge on the couch, reading stuff and watching some TV (and doing work on the computer). One gets maybe too comfortable? So out I went to run a 7km!
But there are times when your body just needs to be lazy. It needs you to rest and fight what it has to fight. While you are reading, watching TV, killing time on Facebook, your body is hard at work fixing itself. It may be easy to get lazy but it may be necessary at times. This was one such time and I did not listen to my body.
Training is fun and exciting. I know I like it. But I have to learn to be patient with myself when I am sick and need my energy to fight whatever is assaulting me. Mostly, I have to shut up that narrative that makes me think I am just being lazy and should suck it up. I have to go back to working out in a way that does not throw me back into illness. This means a gradual return, testing the waters so to speak. So I need to be more patient with myself. Oh! And I also need to get myself a proper thermometer!

19 thoughts on “It’s easy to get lazy! Return to training during or after a cold? (Guest post)

  1. I agree about the rest. When I tried to exercise through a cold (with no fever!) I ended up with severe bronchitis. Resting through it, I recovered easily.

  2. Great read. My problem is that when these moments do come, I get off track and it is so hard for me to get back in my routine. Any advice? Thank you for sharing.

    1. It is hard to get back to it. Partly because if the bug was so harsh, which this one was, some symptoms continue to linger. I find myself aching much more than usual with less exertion. So I think maybe slow patient persistence is to be exercised? This is what I am trying now.

    2. My approach with this has always been to kick off training again with whatever you most enjoy, so that you are motivated to do it. I enjoy the bench press, so a good solid chest day helps me get back into it. Also, make the goal of your workout the recreation of habit, not new personal bests. It might not be the best workout ever, but if you get to the gym and you get something done, it’s a win regardless of how much or how well you did.

  3. My husband will always ask me whether I think he should go out for a run or do a workout when he’s sick…my response is always no, but he does it anyway. He always pays the price in the end. I get it, though, that restless feeling an active person gets from sitting around. I think some of it is perpetuated by an iDea of rest and sitting = laziness. I think of it from the take of “my body is my temple”. If my temple were crumbling, I’d take the time to repair it, not to place it the path of a storm.

    1. I love this! Fix the temple indeed! The equation rest = laziness is pernicious and may have been imprinted in our minds by all kinds of things. I know for me it was part of my upbringing.

  4. I’m trying to remind myself to not run during this cold (that will soon turn into a sinus infection because allergies), so this was helpful to read 🙂 Also, it’s a busy time of year for me at work (beginning of a new semester), and I can’t take any time off. However, I feel so lazy not working out!

    1. I think in the end we will be better off resting and fixing the temple as suggested by onegirlbreathing above.

  5. I have cycled when I have slight cold not a full blown hacking cough, etc. It’s not healthy to be cycling then. Or small distance for much shorter time period.

    Also the older you get ….into your 60’s onward, recovery from a major cold, will become abit longer…and longer.

    In my 20’s to 30’s, I would go for 3-4 consecutive years without any cold, sniffles nor fever. Before I returned to cycling and when I returned to cycling during that time in my life. I was outdoors enough …..since I don’t drive nor have a car.

  6. It is true that recovery time may take longer. As I get older too, I certainly feel that.

  7. I recommend to my fitness trainees that they trust in the discipline they’ve developed via good workout habits. It took me years to realize this in myself: I’ll get back to exercise, because is one of the things that I do as a routine. If I feel lazy after I’ve been sick or stressed out, it’s okay to lay off, tomorrow’s another day and discipline will bring me back to exercise.

    1. It does feel good to go back to a routine. This is why I think having it broken off by illness is so hard and also why we rush to go back.

  8. I encourage my clients to lay off high intensity training while they are sick, but if they want to lift some weights I don’t discourage them. I don’t mean lifting heavy, I don’t encourage them to push for new personal bests, but whereas elevating your heart rate can divert resources that the body needs for recovery, a weights session can promote production of those resources. Just remember you are sick and don’t go crazy.

    1. Well, my weight lifting is also high intensity. So reducing the intensity is key, as my body reminded me, aching like mad for lighter than usual weight lifting.

      1. That’s a mixed blessing, I think. Our body reminds us what it needs, but often only once you’ve given it something it doesn’t need. Gabriel Garcia Marquez said “Wisdom comes to us when it can no longer do any good.” Going for a run with the flu is a great example of this.

  9. The body definitely needs time out to heal from the illness. There is a time to push and a time to yield 🙂

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