Rest is a Productive Activity

“I can’t swallow.” “I think I have a fever and chills.” “Oh, and my head, OW.” “Should I cancel my park workout this morning?” “I don’t think I have Covid, but…” “Maybe, it will make me feel better?” “Don’t be a bad citizen – cancel.”

These were thoughts going through my head a couple Saturdays ago. It started with a sore throat Friday morning, which I attributed to seasonal allergies. I take antihistamines every day from late July until the first frost in October, every year for as long as I can remember. A sore, scratchy throat is often one of the symptoms of my ragweed allergies. But by Friday night, I couldn’t swallow. On Saturday morning, I had fever and the chills. And, my head hurt. Clearly, not allergies. The pus in my throat told me it wasn’t “PMS Flu” either. I still wondered if going to workout was possible, and whether it would make me feel better.

This is crazy at the best of times. I would advise a friend with similar symptoms to rest. During a pandemic, the responsible thing is to stay away from other people, when you have symptoms that MAY turn out to be “the virus”. But, I have a hard time accepting that I can’t go workout. I also have a tendency to doubt myself when I feel sick. Is it in my head? Am I just tired? Why do I have such a hard time believing I’m sick when there is evidence that I am?

I think I was taught to “push through”. Early in my career, it was the norm of people around me, at a busy law firm, to come to work, no matter what. You don’t feel well? Bring your medication, lots of tea, suck it up and get your work done. A family member passed away? We are sooo sorry. Are you able to stay late tonight and help with this Closing? That was the “work ethic” I became a career person in. It sounds harsh. It was a different time. Companies have become much more aware of healthy work-life balances, and don’t push these types of environments as much (or maybe I’ve just been away from a law firm for too long). The insurance company where I work has a great culture, committed to “People First”). But it’s still part of my “moral compass” to make sure I’m “really sick” before I take time off. I think that pours over to my fitness routine.

It’s not only corporate culture that contributes to a need to persevere in the face of illness. I’ve mentally applauded a friend or family member’s profession of “rarely taking a sick day in decades”. Many of us have boasted, while at the gym, that we felt a little off, but it was definitely worth it to be at the gym. A good sweat can cure almost anything, after all.

We’ve all been exposed to ad campaigns, such as Nike’s “Just Do It!” If I am a true athlete, I will just do it, right?

“Just Do It” in Black Letters on a light grey background.

Much of the above is not true. It is not necessary to “push through” if you are sick. There may be exceptional circumstances where that is the case. But for everyday activities, including workouts at the park. This is absolutely not necessary.

On this particular Saturday, I stayed home. I was sick enough to know better. Turns out I had Strep throat. I did get tested for Covid-19, and the test was negative thankfully. I’m not sure how I managed to get Strep throat, while diligently social distancing and wearing my mask inside public places. I can’t remember the last time I had it, or any infection that required antibiotics, other than the UTI I had a couple months ago. Prior to that, it’d been decades.

Even with the knowledge that I had Strep throat, I still felt it was a “challenge” every day to “do nothing”, exercise-wise. That meant no park workout on Saturday. No long run on Sunday. No virtual strength and conditioning class on Tuesday. No exercise endorphins. No long walks with Gavin before dinner. Another reason for me not to walk the dogs…not that I need one…thank you, Gavin.

Every day I would do a body scan in the morning. Do I feel well enough to exercise? No. I’m still more tired than usual. A bit nauseous (perhaps, from the antibiotics), a running headache, etc. I was still working. Working from home, makes it much more viable to work while sick. It was a busy week at work too. Plus, I had an exam to write. I needed my energy for that.

“It’s OK if you don’t have the energy” in a yellow circle with a orange and blue turtle at the bottom of the circle.

Part of me still felt like a slacker. Where does this come from? It’s ridiculous. Why is there a small part of me that still fears that if I miss several days of exercise I will fall of the wagon for much longer period? This has not happened since my twenties, and yet that fear is still there. There is a very low chance, barring physical challenges, that I will suddenly forget how much better I feel on a daily basis, with regular movement.

There is tons of evidence out there that rest is beneficial for you. It’s beneficial for your workouts. Nevermind when you are sick and your body needs to recover. My fellow bloggers have talked a lot recently about “active rest”. Cate, here. Martha, here. Tracy, here. But, I’m talking about total rest. Give into it. And maybe, I don’t need to be sick to accept it, once in awhile. Total rest is also good for the soul. Maybe…

Black lettering on a white background. Title says “Friendly Reminder:” Underneath a teacup it says “It’s perfectly okay if the only exercise you get today is flipping the pages of a book or stirring your tea or smiling with friends. Wellbeing means your WHOLE body. Make sure your soul is getting as much exercise as your glutes.” By “Unknown”

I did get back on the wagon. I started my virtual workout on Thursday, telling myself I would take it easy. Turned out, I didn’t need to. I was still feeling nauseous, but the workout did make that go away. I went to my park workout on Saturday, and felt so much better, thanks to those antibiotics, and to allowing myself to fully rest.

What about you readers? Do you let yourself rest, when you are not feeling well?

Nicole P. lives, works and works out in Toronto. And takes time off, when necessary.

One thought on “Rest is a Productive Activity

  1. As much as I’ve seen the advice to exercise if you have a slight cold, but no fever — heck, it even boosts your immune system, they say — it’s never worked for me. If I have even the slightest inkling of a cold and I exercise, I’m in for it for realsies. If I take some zinc and vitamin c, then rest and eat a lot of simple carbs, I’m fine the next day. It’s rare for me to get a real cold since I’ve discovered this. I don’t have to do it often.

    So, listen to your body. It asks for rest for a reason.

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