I have a hard time deciding when to call in sick to work. Apparently, I also have a hard time deciding whether to workout or not. I mean, sometimes it's obvious. If you're nauseous, if bodily fluids are involved and/or likely to erupt, then you stay home. If there's a fever, you stay home. If you're super contagious, you stay home. If you're injured, you - well, you don't stay home, you get yourself to a hospital and get fixed up, but after that - you stay home.
Most of the time, though, "sick" means the common cold. Sore throat. Congestion. Cough. Headache. Achy everything. If there's limited mucous, no fever, and no fluids escaping, do you workout or not?
That has been my dilemma for the past few days. On Tuesday, I could feel it coming on. Sore throat. Itchy eyes. But I hoped that with a ton of vitamins, water, honey, garlic, apple cider vinegar, and ColdFX (high-dose ginseng), that I could fight it off. This time around, I lost the battle, and by late Tuesday night I knew I was capital S "sick." Shivers, trouble sleeping, dry cough. On Wednesday, I had to call in sick to work. It was not a week I could afford to lose a day, and I had grand plans of getting far more done from home than I actually did, because my body said SLEEP! and it was deep and intense.
I considered going to my usual spin class. In the past, I've done spin while sick because I figure that if I'm already sweaty and miserable, I might as well burn some calories while I'm at it. But by the afternoon I knew that, respiratory-wise and head-ache wise, the responsible thing to do was to take a rest. Therein lies the biggest problem for me: being honest about what is the most responsible thing.
See, it's pretty easy to talk yourself out of working out, so I don't give myself the choice. No deviating from the routine! Which is why, when something like this comes up, it's hard for me to listen to my body.
Mat knew I wasn't feeling well. I had put him on notice yesterday that I might have to cancel today's personal training session, though I didn't want to and would see how I felt in the morning. He texted this morning to ask how I was feeling, trying to gauge whether it was smart to train or not. I told him that I had a headache, and was tired - really low on energy - but that my throat was improving and there was no cough, and my respiratory system was not affected. I planned to come in. He wasn't so sure. Kept asking questions about how I felt. "It sounds like I am trying to talk you out of training but I'm not. I just want to make sure that your body can handle it." He pointed out that he'd rather have me at 100%. "Remember, if you give half the effort, you get half the results." That's very true. But I pointed out to him that 50% is still better than 0%. Given that I skipped spin last night, and am not likely to get much workout time in on the weekend, I wanted to be absolutely sure that if I cancelled a training, it was because it was the best for my body and not because I was allowing myself to be lazy. Straddling the fine line between excuses and responsible choices left me indecisive. Mat had one more trick up his sleeve: "can you do 15 burpees?" I thought about it. Texted back, "I don't know. Probably." He replied: "I meant right now." Oh. In my living room? In my pajamas? Uh, okay. Yup. 15 burpees, done, no coughing, no trauma. He wasn't my favourite person at that moment, because - burpees. But I reported back to him and we decided "today, we train."
There you go. The Burpee Test for training when sick.
All jokes aside, it really can be a grey area when it comes to feeling well. I laughed to myself when Mat said he wanted me at 100%. If I only worked out when I felt 100%, it would never happen. There's always something a little bit off, something that aches, a headache that hurts, cramps that grip. I often feel like I'm fighting off a cold, and with the help of fitness and improved health I think I am able to fight off more than I used to. No, if I waited for 100%, I'd be cancelling 75% of my classes and sessions!
Sometimes, what your body needs is a good workout, even when you're sick. You build energy, you help your body to fight whatever virus is attacking it. But sometimes, you can make it worse. Sometimes, you need to let your body rest and use all available energy to make those antibodies. Unless it's cut-and-dry (respiratory system is compromised, fluids, fever, injury), you have to listen as much as possible to your body, and be honest with yourself: are you giving yourself an out, an excuse, or is the best thing for you?
For more information about whether you should "Sweat it out, or Rest and Recover" when you're sick, check out this article from Precision Nutrition: www.precisionnutrition.com/working-out-when-sick