Thursday, June 24, 2010

In Sickness and in Health

I've got a question - how do you push yourself to exercise when you're sick? Or do you? Should you?

I've heard arguments for both sides. I've read that your body needs a break when it's sick so it can focus on healing. And I've heard the arguments for staying in the groove and not letting yourself get out of the habit. I guess it depends on how sick is sick, right? A headache means keep on running. The flu, OMG please stay in bed. But what about things like miserable allergies or a cold, or something that isn't totally debilitating but still feels miserable? Do you exercise then? The Mayo Clinic says it depends on the symptoms. If they are located above the neck, then go workout. If they are below the neck, then take a break. Prevention agrees - a stuffy nose and itchy eyes or sniffles aren't enough to cancel the workout. But a chest cold or body aches? Skip it. I like their reminder for people who exercise at gyms, too! If you're contagious, don't do it.

This begs the question - who wants to exercise when they are sick? Its been my experience that when I'm sick, I feel crappy and don't want to do anything except whine and moan and be miserable *g*. But the reality is, exercise taps into those feel-good endorphins and can kick that whining and moaning to the curb, giving a burst of energy, too.

And what about eating? For me, at least, comfort food is necessary for the healing process -and comfort food never seems to be found on my healthy menu, ya know? Now, granted, the last thing I ever want to do when I'm sick is cook. But I'm more than willing to hand someone a recipe and look pathetic, hoping they'll make it for me *g* A quick google search found a bunch of healthy recipe makeovers, so I'm thinking eating healthy while sick is definitely doable. The trick is non-recipe comfort foods - and I can't think of any *g* How about you?

Do you exercise when you're sick? Or skip it? And what about comfort food? What's your favorite comfort food and how healthy is it?

Tawny Weber writes hot, spicy stories for Harlequin Blaze. In January 2010, her novella, YOU HAVE TO KISS A LOT OF FROGS, was out in the Blazing Bedtime Story anthology and her next full length Blaze,, RIDING THE WAVES, will be out in September 2010. Come by and visit her on the web at


Rachel Graves on June 24, 2010 at 8:16 AM said...

Comfort food is a must! When I get sick I crave nothing but carbs, carbs, and more carbs. I've been known to live off Wonder bread when I'm suffering. I've always thought that the dramatic decrease in portion size made up for the empty calories.

As to working out when you're sick, I agree with the above the neck rule. I've found that a good cardio work out can stop a migraine before it gets too bad. The problem is reminding myself of that each time. If I can manage to drag myself to workout, I'll feel much better afterward, but for some reason it's always a battle.

Sally Kilpatrick on June 24, 2010 at 8:16 AM said...

Tawny, interesting questions. Usually, I follow the guidelines you've already mentioned for working out. If I'm really miserable, though, I'll dial it back a notch but still go just to stay in the habit.

As for comfort food? This is a real problem--especially if it's a stomach upset. If my stomach is queasy, I want a regular coke. I can be coke free for months, get a stomach ache, crave a coke, and have a hard time getting rid of them even after healthy. I don't know what that's all about--and the diet ones won't work. Weird.

Elise Hayes on June 24, 2010 at 8:38 AM said...

Part of the sickness question has to do with how chronic the symptoms are. For instance, when I first moved into the DC area, I got slammed by allergies. They literally made me sick for three months out of the year (two in spring; one in fall). If I'd given up exercising then, it would have meant three months with no exercise--and that wasn't ok. (Allergy shots have made my life SO much better since then)

Same thing with pregnancy. I was sick as a dog for the first 6 months of the pregnancy. Nausea was my middle name (and yes, I threw up about once a week on my runs), but I kept up a slow jog, anyway.

But a virus that kicks my butt for five days--that I can cut myself some slack on. I can skip running for a few days--it's when I know the symptoms are going to be there for weeks or months that I push through it and keep exercising anyway.

Michelle Butler on June 24, 2010 at 9:41 AM said...

It all depends on how sick I feel - and that's usually based on if I have a fever and how high it is. If I'm feeling really sick, I don't exercise and I have no great inclination to eat. Sleep is what I'll want the most. If I'm not super sick and food has appeal for me, I'm all about the chicken soup.

One thing that I really noticed the last time I was super sick (H1N1 Virus/Swine flue) was just how run down my body was after I got better. My typical workout was SO much harder - much more so than if I had just taken a week off. Elise explained that was typical, and I just toughed it out until my body fully recovered.

Trish Milburn on June 24, 2010 at 9:52 AM said...

Like everyone else has said, it depends. Even if I'm sick enough that I can't exercise, I still try to get up and move around some to work out some of the stiffness and aches. If I'm really sick, I tend to sleep a lot and I think that's what my body needs because I got run down enough to get sick in the first place. I do notice that I don't get sick as much if I get plenty of sleep.

As for comfort foods, I usually go for the typical chicken noodle soup (especially if it's a head cold) or mashed potatoes.

Keri Mikulski on June 24, 2010 at 2:30 PM said...

I've debated this question for years... The medical profession says to stop exercising if you are sick, but if it's a cold and you're fever free, you can work through it and it might be beneficial..

But, after years of working out sick, I really think it depends on your immune system. You know your body. My immune system isn't so hot and it needs all the help, vitamins, and strength it can get. :) So I take breaks.. :)

Comfort food?? Yummy.. Chocolate chip cookies and mac and cheese for me. :)

Great question! ;)

Tawny on June 24, 2010 at 9:22 PM said...

Rachel, I hear you on the feel good carb magic! There's nothing that makes me feel better than carbs. Oh -and potatoes. Anything with potatoes is a happy food LOL.

I hadn't thought about the exercise benefits of staving off a migraine -that's so good to know. I usually do the 'pretend it's not there and it'll go away' thing until it either does go away, or I'm under the bed whimpering. I never thought to exercise, but I will definitely try it next time!

Tawny on June 24, 2010 at 9:24 PM said...

Sally, you're my exercise inspiration :-D WTG on keeping the habit going!!

That's so interesting about the coke. I wonder if its a combination of the real sugar, carbonation and whatever flavors they use. I'll bet the artificial sweeteners don't come close to offering that same level of comfort pure sugar does.

Tawny on June 24, 2010 at 9:41 PM said...

Elise, wow! I'm feeling like a total slacker now, because I curled up in bed during my morning sickness phase *g* You rock that you kept the exercise going!!

Tawny on June 24, 2010 at 9:44 PM said...

Michelle, I think sleep is the king of all cures. And like you say, there are times when we feel so horrible, that exercising is a lesson in misery. I think the idea of taking it down a few notches and going easy, but still moving, is really smart.

Tawny on June 24, 2010 at 9:45 PM said...

Ahh, Trish. Mashed potatoes. Yummmmmy!!! I'm a fan :-)

I love vegetable noodle soup, too - with homemade noodles. Nothing better for a headcold if you're vegetarian *g*

Tawny on June 24, 2010 at 9:47 PM said...

Kerri, I think you nailed a really important point!! There are things that don't hit our immune system - like Elise said, allergies and such that make us miserable but don't compromise our immune system are a lot easier to push through than something that drags us into the dirt.

You're advice- know your body- is priceless!

and so are good chocolate chip cookies, of course :)

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