CrossFit During Cold & Flu Season – To Work Out Or Not?

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Cara Silverstein | January 23, 2017 | no comments |

Cold and flu season is very active this year.  I’d bet that you or someone around you, either at work, school or home is fighting a bug of some sort.  I just got over a bad case of flu myself and it got me thinking about working out while sick vs. staying home to rest and recuperate.

First of all, if you’re contagious, please stay home.  Everyone at Wildcat would be happy to see you again when you’re better.  In the meantime, let’s keep the germs at home and not on the equipment where more people could become sick.

Second, when you’re sick, your body needs extra rest.  I know that nobody wants to lose the gains they’ve made.  Coming in for a workout when you need that extra rest can feel like you’re toughing it out – stronger than you think.  Really you’re not doing yourself any favors – you could be stressing your immune system even further.  And putting your workout buddies at risk of catching what you’ve got.

This morning was my first time into Wildcat in about 10 days.  I was definitely over most of my flu but it’s still hanging out in my chest as a cough – I can’t take really full, deep breaths without triggering a coughing reaction.  I was worried that after this long without a workout I would have lost some of my strength but I hadn’t.  The cardio portion was much harder though, as I’m still not up to 100% with my lungs.

Coach Gio commiserated, having just been sick himself.  He told me he had a bit of a relapse because he’d worked out too soon after being sick.  I did a little reading when I got home and found that I may have come back too soon also. We’ll see, hopefully I won’t relapse too.  What I did find out though, in some scientific journals, is that “prolonged bouts of strenuous exercise cause a temporary depression of various aspects of immune function that usually lasts ~3-24 hours after exercise, depending on the intensity and duration of the exercise bout” (1) and, “Postexercise immune function dysfunction is most pronounced when the exercise is continuous, prolonged (>1.5 hr), of moderate to high intensity (55-75% maximum O2 uptake), and performed without food intake” and this dysfunction “may compromise resistance to common minor illnesses such as URTI (Upper Respiratory Tract Infection)” (2).

So – if you work out hard, it may make you more likely to catch a cold. If you already have a cold, you’re weakening your immune system, putting you at risk to get sicker than you already are.

Remember that we all come to Wildcat for our health and well being.  None of us want to get sick and when we do get sick we want to get better quickly and get right back to it.  Make sure you’re taking care of yourself this flu season.  Here are a few ways to keep your immune system healthy during this season.

5 Tips for Avoiding Flu or Cold Season So You Don’t Have to Miss Your Workouts!

1 – Wash your hands regularly.  Any time you’re out and about, you’re coming into contact with other people’s germs.  If you touch them with your hands then touch your face, chances are you’re transmitting those germs to yourself.  Take an extra few moments, more often than usual, and wash your hands.

2 – Get enough sleep.  When our immune systems are challenged, we need extra rest.  Saying yes to a few late nights in a row can really weaken the immune system.

3 – Drink plenty of water.  Keeping your body hydrated helps everything work more smoothly.

4 – Keep up your nutrition.  So often, people get sick during the holidays because they’ve lowered their resistance eating too much sugar and refined carbohydrates. Keep your foods as whole and unprocessed as you can and make sure to include plenty of fresh produce.

5 – Keep your distance from people who are sick – germs spread through coughing and sneezing and being in close proximity means you’re more likely to catch something.



1 Gleeson, Michael. Immune Function in Sport and Exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology: 103, 2: 693-699. 2007. <>

 2 Weidner, Thomas G.; Cranston, Tracy; Schurr, Terry; Kaminsky, Leonard A. The Effect of Exercise Training on the Severity and Duration of a Viral Upper Respiratory Illness. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 30 (11): 1578-1583. 1998 <>

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