You have been so great about your new exercise routine, rarely missing a day since you started up again. Then all of a sudden you are waylaid by a cold or flu. I hope for your sake that you are able to get through this rainy season untouched. Unfortunately, I caught some cold bug and I'm as frustrated to no end. So what should I do? Should I skip yoga or forsake that Pilates class for a late afternoon nap?

The dilemma: I feel like crap but I feel guilty for not lacing up my shoes and going for a run. I get this question all the time, and now I'm asking myself the same thing: When is it okay to work out, and when should you rest?

Your symptoms hold the answer. Experts like to cite a rule of thumb known as the "neck rule." If your symptoms are all located above your neck (stuffy nose, scratchy throat, headache), you almost certainly have a head cold and can hit the road or treadmill safely. If, on the other hand, you have a fever, congestion in your chest and lungs, or feel achy, it is probably a sign of flu, bronchitis, or another more serious ailment, and you should rest up. Exercising with a fever will make you more vulnerable to dehydration, among other ill effects. It puts too much stress on the heart, which already is beating faster because of the higher body temperature. If you're suffering from chest congestion, coughing and shortness of breath, you also shouldn't work out.

I tell people (and myself) to listen to their bodies. If they are sick, their body is telling them something is wrong. Even though it may be tempting to not break an exercise routine, working out may actually prolong the illness.Dr. Rick Kellerman of the American Academy of Family Physicians says that it is a myth that you can sweat out germs and toxins. He acknowledges that "low levels of exercise increase endorphins and benefit the body, but an intense workout that creates high levels of endorphins can wear down the immune system."

Another reason to skip the gym if you're sick is to keep from spreading the germs to everyone else. Be considerate. Know when you're contagious. Wipe down machines, wash your hands and don't force it if you really don't feel well.

Now, once you're feeling better, don't start back at 100 percent. Start at a lower level. Give yourself time to recuperate or you might relapse or prolong the illness.

As for me, I'm taking the day off. I feel really crappy and more so guilty for skipping my session today. I'm just praying my patience and self-control will pay off and get me off this horrible flu the soonest so I can get back on my feet to work out again.

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