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Working Out When Sick

When it comes to fitness, you’re a machine. Being active is as much a part of your routine as sleeping and eating. You don’t ask “will I do something today?” You say, “what am I going to today?” You take rest days to give the weights a break. But, you got the funk. Sore throat, runny nose, maybe a fever or some stomach issues. Now what?

If you’re like me, taking a break can feel like you’re backsliding. I hate it. Being active is just fun, so I want to do it. But should you? When you’re sick, should you workout? Would it be better to take time off and recover? And if you do something, what are the best things to do?

First off, an easy way to determine whether you should suck it up and do something or take the day off is the Neck Rule: if your symptoms are above the neck (sore throat, runny nose, dry cough), you’re good to do something. However, if your symptoms are below the neck (chest congestion, stomach issues), it’s best to sit this one out. Of course, if you’re ever dealing with a fever or something contagious, for the sake of your workout buddies, keep your funk at home.

But even if you pass the Neck Rule and decide you’re going to do something, should you go all out? Well, it depends. In this situation, you’ve got to listen to your body. Occasionally, I‘ve gone to the gym feeling beat up with a scratchy throat and walked out having crushed the workout. Getting blood pumping can help you sweat through the funk. But most times, it’s best to back off the intensity. Jumping in too fast can lengthen the recovery time. Ultimately, you’ll have to listen to your body and know that doing something, even something light, is better than nothing.

So, you’ve got the funk, it’s above the neck and you’ve decided to do something light. What are some good workout options? Here are a few of my recovery favorites:


Battle Ropes

For about 100 bucks you can own a game-changing conditioning tool. This is my go-to for a few reasons:

  1. I can do them outside, which I love.      
  2. They’re relatively inexpensive and easy to transport, so you can carry them anywhere.
  3. Unlike going to for a run, if I decide I’m feeling too crappy to continue, I’m not miles from the house. I can just pack up and leave.
  4. They’re designed for short bursts of activity followed by rest. The built in rest gives in-workout recovery time, when you may need when you’re not feeling 100%.

Try this battle rope workout:

6 rounds:

30 sec Ropes

30 sec Rest

30 sec Rest

60 sec Burpees

60 sec Rest





This is another interval style workout routine with rest built in. You work for 20 sec and rest for 10 sec, repeat this 8 times for a 4 minute blaster. Don’t mistake the rest for an easy workout. This is a tough one. But, I like it because it’s quick. If your endurance has taken a hit from the funk, you can be in and out in just a few minutes with Tabata circuits.

Try this:

8 rounds of :20 on/:10 off. Stick with the same exercise the full 4 min. Rest 90 sec and switch to the next exercise.





(Don't want to time yourself?  Use the app!)


Indoor Rowing

Granted, not everyone has access to a row machine and not everyone is planning on shelling out a thousand bucks for one of these bad boys, but if you do, the benefits are numerous. Rowing is a very low impact, full body exercise that’s scaleable to all fitness levels. And, in terms of a pure caloric burn, there’s not much that beats it. When you’re feeling a little down, a 5k row at a moderate pace will help sweat the funk right out.


Kevin Snodgrass



Dirty South Fit Fitness Apparel