Working out while sick

So, no sooner did I say to Meg in the car on the way back from the Finger Lakes on Sunday, “I got sick a lot in college, but now I never really get sick anymore” then I find myself sick as a dog. It sucks. I totally forgot what it was like. I mean I’ve had chronic stomach troubles for almost a year now (worst anniversary ever), but I forgot about colds. Luckily (?) because I can’t breathe through my nose, and I can’t eat and breathe through my mouth at the same time, I haven’t really had an opportunity to eat much, which my stomach appreciates. So, silver lining I guess.

Anyway, I’m sick. I hate it. I had such a good run on Sunday that it pained me to take Monday off for this cold, but I did. Then by Tuesday I started getting antsy. I felt like a baby for not working out. The Internet based rule of thumb logic seems to be that if a cold is from the neck up, it’s ok to work out. So, if you have a stuffy head and a sore throat but no muscle aches or fever, go for it. So I did. I did a weights workout on Tuesday night, and I went to the gym before work on Wednesday to run a couple (literally 2) miles. Then I thought, “this is so stupid.”

In my head I told myself that I was running for all the reasons the internet proclaims. You know, endorphins make you feel better and get healthier and blah blah blah. But really I was running because I ate a bag of Cheetos and a dozen s’mores on my weekend away. I felt bad about it and came back with high hopes to get “back on track” in the coming week.

So I ran, and I was blowing my nose while running, and then I came home and got sick in the shower. I mean, how dumb is that? Do you know what makes me feel better when I have a cold? Rest and time. Hot showers and soup. That’s it.

Maybe it won’t kill me to keep running with a head cold, and maybe it’s good to know that if I’m ever training for something important and don’t want to take the week off, but it’s kinda crazy disordered thinking to feel like I needed to get out there just because I could without dying. And it’s gross. I’m sure no one at the gym appreciated my deathly pallor invading their personal space.

I’ve come a long way in changing my thinking about food and exercise and body issues, but every once in a while I catch myself doing something crazy for the wrong reasons. It was disordered to think that I needed to undo my bad eating from the weekend with exercise and “clean eating.” That’s not really a thing. It’s not like a bunch of kale would clean all the neon orange Cheetos dye out of my veins (I have a loose grasp on nutrition). It was disordered to think that I should push through and go to the gym when walking up the stairs to the train was leaving me winded.

So, I took the rest of the week off to take care of myself and get better. I didn’t eat better because I wasn’t working out. I ate food that made me feel better like salad and juice but also like chocolate and lots of bread. I felt bad about not running and worried at times about what all those carbs would do without a healthy dose of cardio because it’s really hard to totally change your thinking patterns. But I always wish I could go back in time and tell younger me not to be so hard on myself. I can’t go back, but I can practice a little self-kindness now. I can become the kind of woman who doesn’t view eating as something to be scrutinized and perfected and exercise as a means of absolution. There is more to a healthy lifestyle than eating right and exercising. I chose rest over running because I care more about my well being than my waistline and I’m cool with that.


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