should you exercise when you're sick?

Saturday, February 17, 2018

If you follow me on Instagram you will know that I have been battling a sinus infection for the last 9 days. It has been super frustrating especially because we just moved to Philly and I want to get out and do things and work. I'm terrible at resting, as my husband can attest, but I am really trying so I can get better.

One thing I've given up during this time is exercise. I love exercising for a variety of reasons and find it beneficial for my overall health, but when I am sick exercise is the last thing I need. Don't get me wrong, I miss moving my body and feeling strong. I cannot wait till I'm better and can resume with normal life, but I won't sacrifice my health for a workout.

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This current mindset is drastically different than what it used to be. In my eating disorder and even in recovery, I followed a rigid exercise regime. I had to work out at least X times a week, for X amount of time, and I wouldn't consider it a workout unless it was heart-pumping. Rain or shine, sick or tired I worked out. I was so afraid that if I missed one workout, I would gain weight. I also believed that if I didn't work out, I couldn't eat. So, no matter how sick I was, I would fit in a full workout.

I will post later about my journey with exercise, but this is the gist. My addiction to exercise really started shifting about 5 years ago, when I injured my knee. I had to stop working out completely and then find other ways to move my body. This experience completely broke me. I had to face my fears.
Through this injury (which I am still working on), I learned to trust my body with food and exercise. I learned that my body doesn't need to go through intense exercise to be healthy. I picked up other forms of movement like walking, yoga, pilates, lifting, and swimming, and fit them into my exercise options. I learned that I could and need to still eat and eat enough even when I'm not exercising. My body didn't blow up and I didn't instantly gain tons of weight.

If you struggle with an eating disorder or exercise addiction or are even just afraid of gaining weight, let me tell you that you can trust your body. Are bodies are so smart, and if we actually tune into them, they tell us what we need (what to eat, if we should move our body, etc.).

Robyn, one of my favorite bloggers, has taught me so much about how exercise affects our bodies and hormones. Her posts have challenged me to listen to my body and evaluate why I exercise. I've learned that intense exercise when I'm in a stressful time of life, sick, or tired actually causes more harm than good (see her posts here and here).

I'm not saying exercise is bad. In fact, I love moving my body, and cannot wait to do so mindfully once I am better, but there is flexibility. Exercise should be enjoyable not add stress or harm.
When someone is recovering from being sick, their body needs energy to heal itself. That means rest and adequate nutrition. It is okay to skip exercise for a couple days or weeks, if that's what it takes to heal your body.

I say this as someone who knows the fear of gaining weight from missing a workout, and yet I've also learned that there is so much flexibility. I can trust my body. In these last 9 days, I haven't instantly gained weight or lost all my muscle mass, and I'm eating the exact same.
In the larger scheme of things, missing a couple workouts, make little difference in my life. My goal is to take care of my body so I can live life to the fullest and love others well. Life is so much more than exercise.

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