Fitness and illness: when to rest

Fitness and illness: when to rest

Hi All. Hope you have been having a good week.

As you may tell, I have not been well. I have been battling a rough cold this past week. It has resulted in me feeling quite tired and weak. Whilst I have considered going to the gym as I have not been to the gym for several days and I am worried about losing my hard-earned weight loss, I know that going now would be counterproductive and would set me back on my future progress. Whilst I have been getting some rest, it has made me reflect on something my partner told me and it rings true this week: listen to your body.

When your body tells you to rest, rest. When your body tells you to sleep, sleep. When your body tells you to have something sweet or salty, have something sweet or salty. Your body knows what it is doing. Ignoring the call results in one thing: your body will give you a kick in the butt and MAKE you listen. If you don’t rest, your body will shut you down. Your body loves you, but if you don’t listen to it, it will make you pay attention.

The past week I was running around seeing family and friends and doing a million things a minute after coming off a work schedule when I was doing a million things a minute. Whilst I had a break, I didn’t really stop, and maybe it all caught up with me. I don’t know. It’s just a theory. But there is a point in there to be made around a few things.

Rest: and listen to your body.

As suggested by Haas (2014) it’s very common for people to push through fatigue instead of stopping and taking a break. People plow through with another energy drink, another coffee. They ride the illusion that they are running on all cylinders. The reality though is that if you push your body for long enough without rest there is a high probability that you will get sick.

When your body tells you to rest, REST. LISTEN to your body. You don’t want to be ill for a week, trust me. I’m giving you a page from my book, and it will be a page which I will be reading to myself the next time I feel I am doing too much and my body is telling me to slow down and rest.


Whilst it is important to look after your body, it is also important to look after your mind. Meditation is a fascinating subject and it is something I can spend a whole blog talking about. In terms of touching on it in this blog though, the benefits I feel that meditation may have in terms of keeping the body healthy and ill free, is that meditation offers the person an opportunity to calm their mind.

Stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to life experiences. Anything from everyday responsibilities like work and family to serious life events such as a new diagnosis, war, or the death of a loved one can trigger stress. For immediate, short-term situations, stress can be beneficial to your health. It can help you cope with potentially serious situations. Your body responds to stress by releasing hormones that increase your heart and breathing rates and ready your muscles to respond.

Yet if your stress response doesn’t stop firing, and these stress levels stay elevated far longer than is necessary for survival, it can take a toll on your health. Chronic stress can cause a variety of symptoms and affect your overall well-being. Symptoms of chronic stress include: irritability; anxiety; depression; headaches; insomnia.

Stress stimulates the immune system, which can be a plus for immediate situations. This stimulation can help you avoid infections and heal wounds. But over time, stress hormones will weaken your immune system and reduce your body’s response to foreign invaders. People under chronic stress are more susceptible to viral illnesses like the flu and the common cold, as well as other infections. Stress can also increase the time it takes you to recover from an illness or injury.

How meditation fits into this blog is helping you to manage stress, or to calm your mind. If you find a few minutes a day to practice some meditation to help you calm your mind and help you manage your stress more prodcutively and healthily, you may find that your health and well-being also improves in the process.

When to training and when not to train when ill. 

I suppose this is the most important point to touch on. I think this is a bit of a grey area as some people may believe that you should ‘sweat it out’ or that ‘its ok if the sickness is above the neck’. I think for clarity I will focus on when exercise is NOT recommended when ill. As suggested by Kubala (2018), exercising when you have the following is NOT recommended:


When you have a fever, your body temperature rises above its normal range, which hovers around 98.6°F (37°C). A fever can be caused by many things, but it’s most commonly triggered by a bacterial or viral infection.

Fevers can cause unpleasant symptoms like weakness, dehydration, muscle aches and loss of appetite. Working out while you’re feverish increases the risk of dehydration and can make a fever worse. Having a fever decreases muscle strength and endurance and impairs precision and coordination, increasing the risk of injury.

Productive or Frequent Cough

An occasional cough is a normal response to irritants or fluids in the body’s airways, and it helps keep the body healthy.

However, more frequent episodes of coughing can be a symptom of a respiratory infection like a cold, flu or even pneumonia. A persistent cough can make it difficult to take a deep breath, particularly when your heart rate rises during exercise. This makes you more likely to become short of breath and fatigued.

A productive cough that brings up phlegm or sputum may be a sign of infection or another medical condition that requires rest and should be treated by a doctor. Furthermore, coughing is one of the main ways illnesses like the flu are spread. By going to the gym when you have a cough, you’re putting fellow gym-goers at risk of being exposed to your germs.

Stomach Bug

Illnesses that affect the digestive system, such as the stomach flu, can cause serious symptoms that make working out off-limits.

Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, stomach cramping and decreased appetite are all common symptoms associated with stomach bugs. Diarrhea and vomiting put you at risk of dehydration, which physical activity worsen. Feeling weak is common when you have a stomach ailment, increasing the chance of injury during a workout. What’s more, many stomach illnesses like the stomach flu are highly contagious and can be easily spread to others. If you are feeling restless during a stomach illness, light stretching or yoga at home are the safest options.

Flu Symptoms

Influenza is a contagious illness that impacts the respiratory system.

The flu causes symptoms like fever, chills, sore throat, body aches, fatigue, headache, cough and congestion. The flu can be mild or severe, depending on the level of infection, and may even cause death in serious cases. Although not every person who gets the flu will experience a fever, those who do are at an increased risk of dehydration, making working out a bad idea. Though the majority of people recover from the flu in less than two weeks, choosing to engage in intense workouts while sick may prolong the flu and delay your recovery.

This is because engaging in higher-intensity activity like running or a spin class temporarily suppresses the body’s immune response. Plus, the flu is a highly contagious virus that is spread primarily through tiny droplets people with the flu release into the air when they talk, cough or sneeze. If you are diagnosed with the flu, it’s best to take it easy and avoid exercise while you’re experiencing symptoms.

In summary, it’s best to skip the gym and have a rest if you are affected by any of the aforementioned health issues.

In closing, it can be suggested that listening to your body and resting are important. Calming your mind by managing your stress through meditation is a way to look after your physical and mental wellbeing. And resting when you are really ill is very important, not only toward recovering sooner, but also for doing the rest of the gym-goers a favour by not spreading your germs. Be a considerate gym-goer 🙂

I hope that has been of some help. Remember: it’s a journey. It will take time. Have patience in the process. You will get there. Until then, stay happy, stay healthy, and have a lovely weekend wherever you are on the planet.


Haas, SB. (2014). Why You Need to Listen to Your Body When It Says “Slow Down”. Available: Last accessed 12th March 2019.

Kubala, J. (2018). Working Out While Sick: Good or Bad?. Available: Last accessed 12th March 2019.

A bit about the author:I am a guy who is (nearly) 40, who is sharing a journey of weight management and wellbeing.I am also a mental health professional with a wealth of years of experience in supporting individuals who have challenging mental illnesses and personality disorders. Prior to my current professional role, I spent several years supporting members of the community as a fitness professional, assisting individuals with weight loss and health improvement programmes.I completed a PGDip in Mental Health Nursing in 2013, and an MSc in Advanced Practice in 2016 in which I looked at improving nurses’ level of engagement with patients with challenging personality disorders. In 2018 I successfully undertook a Clinical reasoning in Physical Assessments course with the view to start studying toward becoming an Advanced Nurse Practitioner in late 2019.In 2015 I also undertook a Mentorship for practice (BSc Hons) course and have been supporting future nurses with their training and development. I have also recently supported a Healthcare Assistant Staff toward training in and successfully passing and achieving a Foundation Degree in Mental Health Nursing.In my current role I am a person looking to support the physical and mental health and wellbeing of the individual. As part of my role within the health services in supporting individuals with mental health care needs, I am also currently looking to develop myself as a Wellness Coach, to support the individual with weekly wellness blogs, with the view to support individuals on a 1:1 basis as well as holding motivational lectures and seminars. 


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