Should I work out when I am sick? Should I work out if my shoulder is bothering me? What if I am running on 4 hours of sleep, should I still lift? If I have a cold should I lift or do cardio?

These are all valid questions and questions I hear on a regular basis. The skill of learning to listen to your body, knowing when to push yourself and maybe when to reel it back is one of the most important skills you must acquire as you start a life long exercise program.

In my last post I talked about consistency and patience when it comes to  your individual exercise and nutrition program. Well, to be consistent with your workouts you need to remain healthy and it will help your patience immensely if you aren’t constantly battling injuries or illness that make you take two steps back for every step forward.

So should you push through pain while working out?

Absolutely not! But, at the same time figuring out the difference between what pain is and what fatigue is very important if you are new to exercising. For an experienced exerciser or athlete this is usually something that is taken for granted because he or she is so in tune with his or her body. But, for a beginner it can be tough. If you have been working out for years and still consistently shut down workouts when you are tired or fatigued, there is more of head game going on than a physical injury. Be smart though! Sometimes it is OK to shut it down if energy levels are low…probably not every workout though

So should you workout when you are sick? What workouts are best if you are sick?

This answer depends on how sick you are and what you have. If you have been puking all night just stay home please. If you have bronchitis or a fever you can skip a workout and not feel guilty. But, there are sometimes when working out can help you feel better. An old track coach of mine said “If it’s above your shoulders you are good to workout. If it is below you shoulders go home.” He meant that working out with a head cold will often help clear you up. It’s true!! If you have a bunch of shit in your lungs any heavy breathing will make it worse. If you are stubborn and won’t miss a workout, ideally slower paced and less intense workouts such as yoga, pilates or an upper body lifting session are probably best.

How do I know if I have an injury or if it is just muscle soreness?

This is a tough one and I am not a doctor so I won’t diagnose clients. But, I have had plenty of minor injuries while exercising (hamstring pulls, hip flexor pulls, biceps tendinitis, IT band syndrome, lower back strains, shin splints etc) and when clients have something that looks familiar I can apply what has worked for to my clients for resting and recovering. Learning the difference between an injury and muscle soreness can come naturally to some people and for some it takes some time as you learn about your body. It is more than OK to be overly cautious if you are beginner exercise. The last thing you want is a minor muscle strain turning into a major strain that keeps you out the gym for a month. Quick tip: if you have some discomfort in a muscle group going into a workout, but this discomfort goes away as you warm-up and adrenaline starts flowing, you are most likely dealing with muscle soreness. If that discomfort gets worse as you move more, it is probably a good time to modify the workout. 

Should I workout when I am exhausted and am on minimal sleep?

This depends on the person. I personally don’t workout when I am overly tired because I know the workout will suck. But, then again those are the only workouts I usually miss so it isn’t the end of the world if this happens once every few months. On the other hand, if you are have missed your previous three workouts and know you won’t be able to make it in to the gym for another 5 days, I would get the workout in. Maybe shorten it down or lower intensity then get a good night’s sleep.

How do I deal with the frustration of injuries?

I know all about this one. I am hard on myself and hate missing workouts when I have a goal in mind. I still need to improve on this, but have gotten better at redirecting my thoughts to keeping my nutrition on point or modifying workouts so I can at least get something done. My best advice is: take a deep breath, remember this is a long term process (I know that can be hard sometimes) and tell yourself that resting now will be better for you down the road

How do I keep my nutrition on point when I can workout like want to or at all?

You simply do it. You want it. You want to achieve your goals above anything else and won’t let the McDonald’s drive through or bottle of wine get in your way. Honestly, though this is difficult for me too. I eat better when my workouts are going well and I am healthy. But, life isn’t always easy so keep your goals in mind and remind yourself that nutrition is the cornerstone to your success. 

What is an active recovery day?

I feel like this is becoming a buzz word in the fitness industry nowadays and I have had a few clients ask me about. This would be a day like yoga, pilates, stretching, going for a bike ride, walking the dog. Some activity that is low impact, but still gets you moving and maybe gets a decent sweat going. These are great for people who do a lot of high intensity lifting or HIIT workouts 3-5 times a week. An active recovery day 1-3 times a week is good for the body and mind. I also think this helps keep people on track with nutrition. Knowing you did some kind of exercise is more incentive to eat healthier than just sitting around all day. 

Heat or Ice?

OK, I am not a physical therapist either, but have plenty of connections that are PTs who I refer to. I also use my own personal experience with this one. Heat when the injury is muscular. Ice when there is swelling; typically with a joint. I will leave it at that because that is what works for me.

Take away, be smart and the more you exercise the more you get in tune with your body. Ask a professional such as doctor or physical therapist for advice if you think you have an injury worse than a muscle strain.

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