Should You Exercise if You’re Sick or Injured?

sick or injured

Most of the time, the stuff I post here and on Instagram reflects, in some way, what’s going on in my own life. Today’s post is no different, and it’s all about whether or not you ought to work out when you’re sick or injured.

I’m not sick, but I did wake up yesterday with a super gnarly stiff neck. I don’t know what I did, but I feel like I slept in a headstand. My neck HURT (and still hurts, frankly).

Initially, I had planned to do a pretty intense workout yesterday. When I woke up, though, I knew that, with the way my neck was feeling, there was no way I was going to be able to safely do overhead squats and overhead presses. So, what did I do? I changed my plans and decided to skip working out and stick to walking and some stretching to try and loosen up my neck.

For me, this was an easy decision. I knew right away that it wasn’t a good idea for me to work out, so I didn’t push it. I just accepted it, adjusted my plans for the day, and moved on with my life.

I wanted to address this topic today, though, because it wasn’t always this easy for me to determine whether or not I should work out when I was sick or injured, and I’m assuming that this is an issue for some people out there, too.

Eventually, you’ll get to a point where you can trust your intuition and know whether you should or should not workout. When you’re first getting started, though, it can be hard. Maybe you’re convinced that you’re lazy or weak if you don’t push through and exercise. Maybe you’re on the opposite end of the spectrum and you think you’re being too hard on yourself if you workout instead of taking a full rest day.

If you’re in this position right now and you’re having a hard time deciding between exercise and rest, here are some questions you ask yourself to find the right answer for you.

Do You Want to Work Out?

First things first, do you even want to exercise? If you’re sick or injured and you simply don’t feel like exercising that day, I say go ahead and skip it.

If you’re not feeling up to it, don’t force yourself just because someone on Instagram said opted to work out when they were sick or injured.

You are not them. If you don’t want to work out, you don’t have to. You can simply pick back up when you’re feeling better.

Are Your Symptoms Interfering with Work or Daily Activities?

If you do want to workout but aren’t sure whether or not you should, this is the next question I recommend asking yourself.

Let’s use my random neck injury as an example again. My neck hurt so badly that I couldn’t turn my head (I felt like old-school Batman). I couldn’t perform a basic activity of daily living without pain; there’s no way I was going to try and lift a barbell over my head.

If you’re hurt and can’t carry out daily activities normally, you probably shouldn’t be working out.

Or, you might want to do a light workout targeting muscles that aren’t affected by your injury. For example, if you sprained your ankle, you could still go to the gym and do some upper body exercises if you’re itching to get in a workout.

If you’re sick and can’t function properly, I think it’s best to just wait it out and take a day or two off to let yourself recover. Trust me, the gym isn’t going anywhere.

Are You Contagious?

If your symptoms aren’t interfering with your daily life and you do want to work out, I recommend next asking yourself if you are contagious (obviously, this question only applies to people who are sick).

If you are contagious but do feel up to working out, do everyone a favor and workout from the safety of your own home.

Do not go to the gym, touch all the equipment, and spread your germs to hundreds of other people. Gyms are filthy enough as it is; people don’t need you in there making things worse!

Can You Perform Exercises in a Pain-Free Way and with Good Form?

Finally, if you’ve made your way through all the other questions but are still on the fence, ask yourself whether you can perform the exercises in your workout pain-free and with good form. I knew, based on my neck pain, that I would not be able to do this. If this is the case for you, too (and be honest with yourself), I recommend taking a break and working on your mobility/training other muscles until you feel that you can once again work in a pain-free range and with good form.

You Can Work Out if You’re Sick or Injured, But…

You definitely can exercise if you’re sick or injured, but it depends on your situation. Ask yourself these questions whenever you’re on the fence and use them as a guide to help you determine when you should push through and when you should rest.

Remember, too, that everyone is different. For some people, a little neck pain wouldn’t have kept them out of the gym. Other people feel fine working out when they have a little cold or a headache. We all have different tolerances and different goals.

If you see that someone is working out when they’re sick or injured, don’t think that you have to, too. At the same time, though, don’t judge them for doing what you wouldn’t (Unless they’re at the gym sneezing all over the equipment. Then, judge the crap out of them and go wash your hands, pronto).

Here’s a little flow chart summing up today’s post:

What’s your opinion on working out when you’re sick or injured? Do you have any other questions you ask yourself before you decide what to do? If so, please let me know down below!

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