Did my treadmill get me sick?
October 24, 2007 8:36 AM   Subscribe

Did working out make me sick? How do I prevent this?

We recently bought a treadmill! Yay, fitness! So I've been working on building up a routine towards losing weight. Last week I worked out one day, took a day off, worked out two days in a row, all about 40 minutes each. I am being careful not to overexert myself, as I am out of shape and I'd rather do "slow and steady" than anything else. I maintained a pace that made me sweat but allowed me to speak normally. I drank lots of water.

The day after, I felt like crap. My throat hurt, I had aches, I was randomly dizzy. It felt exactly like the oncoming of the flu. Now, I know it is possible to work out to the point of sickness, is this what happened here? It has also happened in the past when my partner and I had a very exciting and busy week in bed, and then my body sort of did the same thing. By Saturday, I still felt a little sluggish, but about 95% better.

So did I overdo it? Was this dehydration? How do I prevent this in the future? It kinda sucked.

On the same note, my goal right now is weight loss, with the overarching goal of overall fitness (yes, I am also working on the dietary/nutritional side of things). Is my plan of 40 minutes on a day I have time to do it a good plan for this? Would a standard 30 be better? Sometimes, due to my schedule, I can't do a "one day on, one day off" plan, so I will want to work out one day after the other.
posted by atayah to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)
I can only speak from personal experience, but I've had the exact same thing happen when I push myself too hard; it's like I hit a wall, and I get a day of retribution that feels kinda flu-like (upset tummy, headache, fatigue) that goes away with a day of rest.

Have you checked in with your doctor to make sure you don't have any impediments to starting an exercise program? If not, that might be a good idea.

Best thing I can recommend is to listen to your body. As your physical fitness increases, you'll be able to do more for longer, and won't hit a wall as often. Still, maybe doing two days on / one day off might be a good idea until your body adjusts to the new demands you're putting on it.

And good on you for doing this for yourself! Been there, done that, and it was hard but worth every bit of effort to be able to chase down my 7-year-old nephew. :>
posted by tigerjade at 8:42 AM on October 24, 2007

posted by backupjesus at 8:55 AM on October 24, 2007

Awesome, I knew I'd miss something important. Thanks, backupjesus.
posted by atayah at 8:58 AM on October 24, 2007

In my own anecdotal experience, working out does not make you sick if you're used to it. Working out really hard everyday also does not make you sick if you're used to it.

If you were drinking water it's probably not dehydration. The test -- pardon my vulgar language -- is that if you piss clear, you're not dehydrated; if you piss a bright yellow, drink more water. Maybe you sweat a lot, drank a lot of water, and flushed out electrolytes? But really, if you're eating like a normal person, I don't think you should run out of electrolytes either. Maybe you aren't used to the exertion and so your immune system was rather low afterwards; or it could be entirely coincidental. I'd say keep working out moderately, escalate very gradually when you feel comfortable...if it happens a second time, ask a doctor.
posted by creasy boy at 9:01 AM on October 24, 2007

If how you felt over the next few days was, in fact, overtraining, then the only way to prevent that is to start out by training less. It can be pretty difficult to tell if you are doing too much if you aren't used to listening to your body, but you'll get the hang of it after you've been exercising for a while.
posted by ssg at 9:04 AM on October 24, 2007

Maybe being sick is a blessing in disguise. Let me explain. If you barf and are too sick to eat, you'll just lose more weight. You'll lose twice the weight in half the time.

On a serious note, I notice that if I eat a little protein and fiber before I workout, I feel much better. Just a little. Like a few shredded wheat biscuits and a piece of turkey or beef jerkey. Drinking water directly before cardio makes me sick, so I'll drink water about an hour ahead of time.
posted by HotPatatta at 9:12 AM on October 24, 2007

It would help to know what you're actually doing when you work out. Running? What pace range are you in?
posted by hollisimo at 9:36 AM on October 24, 2007

Couldn't it just be a coincidence? You got sick. It sounds like a random cold virus that you may have gotten whether you worked out or not.
posted by peep at 9:52 AM on October 24, 2007

Starting to get in shape is tough.

If you're 40, check with a doctor first.
Exercise is not just time, it's the effort you put into it. A common way of assessing effort is to find your resting heart rate and you maximum (sport specific) heart rate (check with your doctor before testing this). The range between these two numbers gives you zones for different goals. As I recall fat burning is targetted at about 60% of your HR(max)-HR(rest). Other useful things happen at higher percentages, such as improving your VO2max, lactate threshold, etc.

Exercise won't make you sick. But you may be more susceptible to illness if you consistently overdo it, or are not meeting your dietary needs.
posted by lothar at 10:15 AM on October 24, 2007

Try ramping up more slowly. You say you're working hard enough to sweat; for a normally sedentary person, that's huge. Even 40 minutes of leisurely walking is a big change. It's also possible you have too much of a calorie deficit, or not tuned in yet to what kind of nutrition your body wants when exercise is involved. "Listen to your body" is good advice, but right now various parts and systems are yelling out various things all at once. Slow down so you can listen to them one at a time. You'll be able to notice if you need to eat differently, sleep more, change your footwear, etc.
posted by wryly at 12:04 PM on October 24, 2007

Consider getting your thyroid tested.

What you describe used to happen to me every time I started out on a program to get into better shape. When I would try to stick with it in order to make some progress, it would only get worse. Then I discovered that I had an under-active thyroid. Apparently this made my body unable to respond to the increased demands on it. Since I began thyroid treatment, I have been able to successfully exercise and increase my strength and fitness.
posted by rintj at 12:13 PM on October 24, 2007

I can't help you with the feeling horrid part. But let me add my two cents about the exercise itself.

If your goal is to loose weight then 40 minutes on the treadmill isn't the best method. For one, running on a treadmill is as dull as Chips reruns when your not high.

You should read up on interval training. You can probably get better results with less time per exercise.

Body for Life is a very accessible book. And at the used Amazon price of 46 cents how can you go wrong?
posted by munchingzombie at 12:21 PM on October 24, 2007

Actually for the first eight or so weeks what this person is doing is PERFECT for weight loss. It's called "building base" and his body is learning to use fat as fuel.

After that, plenty of time to incorporate intervals.

I know this from experience of doing one YEAR of spin class with no weight loss, then going back and building base. ANd LOSING weight.
posted by konolia at 12:48 PM on October 24, 2007

Make sure you have decent shoes. Having the wrong shoes on a treadmill will make you feel like you were hit by a bus the next day. Been there, done that. You don't need the most expensive shoes, just decent ones. Get more than one pair so you can rotate your shoes and get some thick absorbant socks. It really makes a difference even if you don't notice it the day you walk--you'll notice it the next day.
posted by 45moore45 at 6:50 AM on October 27, 2007

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