First let’s examine the first part; you are sick! First and foremost, only you know how you feel. If you have a slight head cold, symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, or scratchy throat, more than likely you are safe to work out at low-to-moderate intensities. A study performed by the ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine), observed 50 college-aged students who were injected with the cold virus and divided into two groups: exercise and non-exercise. This study found that the symptoms between the two groups were similar and exercising did not intensify the symptoms nor did it compromise the immune system.
If you do find yourself in this position, scale back your workout and give it the 10-minute rule. Workout for 10-minutes at a low intensity and observe how you feel. If you feel better once you have started, continue but scale back on the intensity. If after 10-minutes you are still feeling crumby, take the day off. Listen to your body and please know that one day off will not hinder your progress, in fact it may be just what you need. With that being said, if you are experiencing a wicked cough, chest congestion, fever, vomiting, diarrhea or body aches, it is not recommended to workout. Everyone benefits from you taking a couple days (or more) to rest and kick the crud.
Maybe you are not experiencing a cold but you are feeling physically and mentally exhausted. You have been hitting the gym hard, day-in and day-out and are losing your drive. Maybe you have hit a plateau in the gym and your progress seems to have stalled or you are not recovering adequately and your body tends to feel sore all the time. This happens to all of us at some point or another. Sometimes taking a day or two to recover and recharge is just what you need in order to reap the benefits of your hard work. Your body is extremely intelligent; listen to it!
I just experienced it this last week and instead of beating myself up over taking a day or two off, I found it to be the missing component to feeling balanced. This is all from my personal experience and it is entirely up to you when or why you take time off from training. But I can offer my insight on the topic and tell you that I feel stronger and re-focused on my goals in the gym after a break. It is very easy to become consumed by your goals, eating, breathing, and sleeping the “I will not be sidetracked” mentality. As a competitor, this is an all too common theme I find myself consumed by.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a day off and I highly encourage you to. Meet up with a friend and go for a walk or catch a movie with your honey. Do something that is good for your SOUL; health and happiness go hand in hand and since we spend quality time feeding and training our physical self, we must nurture our emotional self just the same.