Well, it's flu season around here, and that means more and more people sniffling through their workouts at the gym. Here's a few reasons why "working through it" isn't the best idea you've ever had.
1. Other People--Duh!
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), influenza can be spread from an infected person to other individuals up to 6 feet away. How often do you get that close to someone at the gym? All the frickin' time! Even if you're training solo or in a large gym, the next bench or machine is probably only 3 to 4 feet away, and passing someone in the hall or waiting behind them at the drinking fountain is a matter of inches. Experts believe the primary infection mechanism involves droplets created by contagious persons who sneeze, cough, or talk. I'd say lifting hard and doing cardio both expel air quickly enough to cause this effect as well. These airborne droplets then land in the nose or mouth of another person or are transferred from a common surface. Adults are contagious up to one whole day before symptoms present themselves, and can continue to spread the virus for another week after becoming "sick." This means while you're "recuperating" and training chest at the same time, you're putting everyone around you at risk. Respect your fellow gym-goers and stay home until you are well past the contagious period or until your symptoms have cleared up significantly.
2. Worsening Your Own Symptoms
Not only is exposing others to your sickness super rude, it also prevents you from getting better. Complications from the flu or other viruses aren't just a concern for old people and kids--weight-training and cardio both stress your system, putting you right back in that category even if you're an otherwise "healthy" person. It takes a lot of energy to recover from an illness--or train effectively--and trying to do both at the same time will get you results from neither. Secondary bacterial infections are extremely common as well, and usually set in after a virus has run its course: Bronchitis, strep throat (a personal fave), and sinus infections all have a nasty tendency to set in after the virus has been exhausted or eradicated--often causing a "regression." In fact, worsening symptoms over longer periods of time are actually indicative of a separate illness. Sinus infections are common when the nasal passages are not able to drain properly due to past swelling and mucus buildup, whereas lung and throat infections can be caused by post-nasal drip and persistent mucus.
3. What to Do if You Do Get Sick
First and foremost, stay home! Avoid food handling, sharing utensils of any kind (plates, forks, water glasses, everything!), wash your hands thoroughly and often, and rest up. Although the flu and other illnesses can be appetite suppressing, missing meals is never a good idea. Your body is literally waging war, why restrict the resources that make that possible? Drink lots of water, get lots of sleep, and see a doctor if symptoms are really persistent or severe.