Should You Exercise When You’re Ill?

I’ve got the lurgy.

The cold, sore throat and sinus headache that has been going around my office for weeks has finally got me. And I hate it. I think I have quite a high pain threshold, and I’m very reluctant to take days off work when I’m ill. I was sent home at lunch on Monday, but luckily felt a lot better, if still a little gross on Tuesday. I had arranged to go for a run with a colleague on Tues lunch, and when he sent me an email asking if we were still on, I replied that I had the lurgy but I was definitely still on for an easy 4 or 5 miles.

I’ve always used the ‘neck rule’ that says if you’re symptoms are confined to your head, like cold, sore throat, headache etc then it’s generally ok to exercise, within reason obviously (edited to add, apparently a cough counts as below the neck, thank you Sarah!). I know that I’m not going to perform at my best, but I almost always feel better for having worked up a sweat. In many cases I feel like I’m literally ‘sweating out the cold’. It was perfect to get out in the sunshine and fresh air on Tuesday lunch, and I felt rejuvenated when I returned to my desk. Apparently running can actually be a decongestant, helping to clear your head. With that said, don’t push your body too far or too fast, a gentle easy paced run of between 2-6 miles will probably do.

I went to my Speedflex class on Wednesday morning, knowing that I wasn’t feeling my best, but willing to give it my best. My training stayed around 78-83%, lower than my normal 85-90% but it was as good as I could do on the day. I felt so much better afterwards, and felt proud of myself for pushing through, when a few years ago I would have used any ailment as an excuse to skip the gym.

Oh and of course I couldn’t miss dodgeball- I even won joint man of the match for a rather sneaky throw that got one of the opposing team out (and he tried to deny!)

I wouldn’t recommend lifting weights though, as they can put the body under too much stress, not to mention the weights room is probably the ideal place to spread the lurgy! And make sure you get lots of rest after any exercise you do do.

How I’m Getting Over the Lurgy
With the Surrey Half Marathon on Sunday, and more races and classes down the line, not to mention a hectic work schedule, I’m anxious to get back to full health quickly.

  • Eating lots of fresh fruit and veg- getting as much colour into my diet to ensure a range of nutrients, and trying to hit the magic number 7 every day. 
  • Drinking a lot. I’ve actually given up alcohol for lent, so not booze, but drinking plenty of water, tea, Nuun and more water. 
  • Sleeping- after the Adidas Silverstone half I put myself to bed at 9pm. I wish I could get into bed at that time every night. 
  • Taking vitamins- I take Omega 3 fish oil supplements that I bought a while ago at Costco, plus vitamin D supplements, and I’ve also been taking Bimuno Immunaid for the last couple of months. They contain Vitamin C, as well as a form of prebiotic that promote the growth of ‘good bacteria’ in your gut. Oh and they’re gummy tablets that actually taste nice. I take 2 after my fish oil pill to take the taste of fish away first thing in the morning! Despite the fact that I have got ill, I feel like compared to the rest of my office (and London) I’ve got off quite lightly with this lurgy, not to mention that it’s the first one I’ve had all winter! 
  • Having baths to reduce stress, plus adding in some Kneipp arnica bath salts helps ease joints and muscles. It’s a little bit of time to myself to turn the lights off, light a candle and try to avoid the drip from the shower head (one day I will have a freestanding bath and won’t have to choose between the plug end and the shower end!) 
  • Keeping active, but toning it down. This week I don’t have a super fast speed session on the cards, so I’m taking most of my runs outside, slowing them down if need be, and just enjoying them. 
This post is sponsored by Bimuno. Lurgy and opinions are my own. 


  1. March 7, 2014 / 6:44 am

    Hope you’re feeling better soon. Being ill is rubbish! I find I really appreciate early nights when I’m not feeling great and drink loads of water to keep my head less fuzzy.

  2. March 7, 2014 / 8:23 am

    Be careful about working out too much while sick. I can’t recommend sleep enough! 🙂

  3. March 7, 2014 / 10:03 pm

    I usually apply the above the neck rule too, but I ran a slow 10 miler a few months back when I just had a head cold, and it turned into a horrendous chest cold that I couldn’t shift for weeks- not good. Sometimes it’s just better to rest and recover.

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