Do You Cycle When You're Sick?

Just to make sure that nobody would be envious of my stay on Cape Cod, I went and got sick last week. While normal people catch cold, get over it, and go on with their lives, for me illness tends to be "epic". So lately my world has consisted of watching the ocean wistfully while bundled up on the porch, drinking endless hot fluids and medications, working on my laptop, and very minimal cycling to town and back. My bicycle looks at me with scorn, as if to say "How could you!" Which brings me to the question: Do you cycle when you are sick?

Previously I would have answered "yes", but staying here makes me realise that it partly depends on the bike as well. I have a relatively easy time riding an upright bicycle slowly while feeling unwell, but am finding it almost impossible to ride a roadbike in that state. Not only is the speed more than my lungs can handle, but I also have trouble with balance and coordination. On my upright bikes this is not an issue, since their position is almost identical to sitting in a chair and the loop frame is easy to mount and dismount. I am starting to really miss my Gazelle - imagining her, in my hallucinatory state, as a Dutch nurse feeding me spoonfuls of medicine and wrapping me in folksy-patterned quilts.


  1. Get better soon. The more you rest, the sooner you can get back in the saddle.
    Lots of warm and healthy thoughts.

  2. How apropos a topic this is.

    It seems that everyone that I know has been falling ill with (what I am calling) the “end of Summer cold”. I am sure that, locally, it is not helped by the drastic changes in weather we have been experiencing; but reports are bi-coastal of people being afflicted by it.

    But more to your question. In short? No I do not ride when sick.

    When I am ill (which, thankfully, is not often), I get the “epic” sickness as well... this tends to affect my mental state as well as my physical health, so I get caught up in a “sneaky hate spiral” of despair... suddenly the idea of riding so much as a mile becomes a daunting and seemingly un-achievable goal.

    Last February I had the “Great Dragon Cold of 2010” that laid me up for over 2 weeks... that’s the most time I have gone without riding for any reason in the past 24 months.

    Thankfully, though I was affected by this “end of Summer cold” last week, it failed to manifest into “epic” status... but I still did not ride for 3 days that I normally would have. Again, the cool and drizzly weather seriously contributed to that decision... for if it were warm and Sunny, I just might have pushed through on the bike.

    As I am currently “on the mend” from my illness, my biggest concern is relapse, so when I saw the forecast for today (grey, cool, rain) I relented and drove to work today, where at full-strength it would not even have been an option.

  3. You poor thing. It sounds like resting is what your body needs. At least you're in a beautiful place while you recover. Hopefully, the scenery brings a bit of comfort.

    I have to say, I'm fortunate that I rarely get sick, but, much like you, when I do fall ill it is brutal and wipes me out completely. I don't go anywhere, if it is unnecessary. While I may get hit hard with sickness, fortunately, I tend to recover fairly quickly.

  4. the other one!September 27, 2010 at 10:42 AM

    Fresh air and exercise is what the body requires!, that is what my grandfather the farmer would say.
    When my head is stuffy, or I'm not feeling well(dis-ease)a walk or short ride always make me feel better.
    Of course, if I am unable to balance it feels counterintuitive to bicycle, so maybe just the fresh air:(

  5. You're right not to cycle when you're sick, both medically and spiritually. I've done it a few times and it's lengthened my recovery time and created negaitive associations between cycling and suffering. It's frustrating I know, but it's worth being patient, biding your time and waiting. I used my recent cold-related cycling down time to do some twining, shellacking and blogging, and when I returned to the bike, fully recovered, it was the positive, relaxing experience that it should be.

    Get better soon :-)

  6. For me the answer is similar to what you've found. It depends on how sick I am and which bike is available. If my illness is impairing my breathing then no. If I do ride, it will probably be on my vintage Sports.

  7. Sometimes.... My commute is so short that I typically do go ahead and bike to work. And if I'm well enough to be in the office, I'm well enough to bike. Since I can easily telecommute I stay home when I'm sick so not to contribute to the spread since usually it's something I've caught at work anyway. But I don't do any recreational biking until I'm healed. Over the years I've done a lot of testing to the exercise while sick thing. I've definitely learned that if I take a week off from all workouts, I get better faster.

  8. I do not cycle when I am sick. I have asthma and whenever I get a cold it settles in my lungs making breathing hard. Besides, I strongly believe that when I am sick it is my body's way of telling me to rest.

    Get well soon! Rest as much as you can.

  9. Ha! I love your Gazelle hallucinations. I am a real pansy when I am sick, so I can safely say I don't bike.

  10. I'm a 'maybe'- if it's a cold, then yeah ... if it's a fever, then nope

  11. so sorry to hear you are sick. just recently getting over a week of coughs, headaches, sneezing and other head cold symptoms -- almost over -- i can empathize. for me, getting out on the bike immensely helped my mood during the week. i didn't ride hard or long, nor did i have a choice of bikes, but the movement, sounds, and fresh air felt like medicine. using the bike for everything, it just felt odd not to pedal, even if only to the grocery store.

    get well soon!!

  12. Well yes, I ride when I'm feeling under the weather, colds, sore throat etc., I find they clear up much quicker.

  13. darn, that stinks that you got sick! here's to a speedy recovery and getting back on!

    for me, it depends... if a minor cold, and we're talking about commuting, then i just grin and bear it, and i continue riding to work as i wheeze away. for leisure, i would say forget it... and if i have anything more than a cold, well, i become a pretty bad patient and tend to want to stay in bed and be served, so definitely no biking then!

  14. I have to whether or not I like it (I do) because otherwise I get major withdrawal symptoms.

  15. I did today. I'm sick enough to be tired and cranky, and stuffy, but not sick enough to cancel three classes. I would have rather driven, but since I don't have a car, that wasn't an option. So, I got on my mixte and rode to work. I though about the 3speed, which is more stable, and I can ride upright, but I chose the mixte because it handles hills better and I knew I'd want that by the ride home.

  16. Hope you get well soon.
    I had a cold most of last week (sinus issues) and managed to get my self around on the bike...just about. :)

  17. I have cycled with a cold, yes, but I don't think I would be able to if I had the flu. Btw, I swear by taking lots of B vitamins when I'm sick. I kicked a cold in two days last week. Any B stress or B complex will do. I find that it helps your immune system fight back and cuts the duration of my colds.

  18. Hope your feeling better soon.

    This does not really count as being 'sick'
    but when I broke my leg skiing, I was riding
    my bike before I could walk. Carrying crutches
    on a bike took some thought.

    John I

  19. It kind of depends - usually, if I would walk, I'll ride, as on my trips around town I usually ride so that I'm not exerting myself much or any more than if I were walking. I generally wouldn't do any strenuous riding when sick, nor would I usually feel like riding strenuously when sick - but I find even just toodling around the block sometimes feels nice just to get some fresh air, if I'm not completely laid out by the illness.

  20. My general rule is if I'm too sick to be at work, then I'm too sick to ride. But for short trips to the store or something, if I can't convince anyone else to go for me, and I'm not on my deathbed, then I'll hop on and ride. It usually makes me feel a little better!

  21. Thanks for the good wishes!

    Last time I got sick, I ended up down with pneumonia for over a month. This time it has been a week so far; just hope I get better in time to ride my century before heading back to Boston. Did the metric century right before getting sick, but it will be disappointing to stop there.

    In the meantime, I just bought some yarn and needles; will see if I can use the downtime to make me a skirt. Or two...

  22. Feel better and enjoy your knitting. I used to knit primarily on the subway so I am still trying to work it back into my life since I no longer really use the subway (emphatic yay, as I took it today and it was just one giant WTF after the next -- it's amazing how quickly one gets re-sensitized).

    I cycle around the neighborhood when sick but not over bridges. Just too tiring, especially carrying lots of stuff.

  23. I hope you feel better soon!

    I, too, tend to end up with the "epic" illnesses once in a great while. While medications work well on me, I also get every possible side-effect listed on the label--even the ones that contradict each other!

    You are better off resting up, or taking very short rides. On a related topic, I tried to ride too much too soon after my surgery last year and ended up with an infection that kept me off my bike just as the weather was starting to become nice.

  24. I do often bike while sick- if I feel good enough to go to work, I feel good enough to bike generally. However, biking when not 100% makes me long for more infrastructure. I will often plan a longer trip that involves less on-street biking so that if my reactions are a little dulled I have a little buffer.
    This is one of my biggest issues with VC- I know how much harder it is to ride VC (mentally as much as physically) and I just don't think as a culture that we should demand that everyone be 100% "ON" whenever they venture out on a bike

  25. I love that this blog has turned into a kind of forum, at least in use, if not outright format.

    Velouria, get well!

    And to all of you - if you get something in your sinuses (like a cold, for example) - you MUST try (if you can handle it) a Nasal Rinse.

    Neil-Med makes a good one in a box, a squeeze bottle and laboratory-pure salt packs, pre-measured.

    I have always wanted to be able to take my head off my shoulders and rinse it out in the sink when I'm sick - finally trying this method was SUCH a relief!

    I'm telling all my friends and family, and since I read here so often, you're included, I suppose.


  26. Unless I have the dosh for constant cab fares I really don't have any choice about having to cycle. Believe me there have been some very tentative wobbles to the grocery store and work. I do go out of my way (more than usual) to avoid anything looking remotely hilly and I still end up feeling pretty geriatric.

    At these times, if I had a car, I would be sat behind the wheel with the heater on and a coffee steaming away. You wouldn't be able to poke me out with a big stick!

    Enjoy your knitting and do take care.

  27. Well, at least you get a chance to get some knitting done. Hope you feel better soon!

    NorthernMike - I LIVED off of that stuff last year. It really is wonderful stuff. Especially in the winter. Breathing in the cold air irritates my nose, so I find the warm water soothing.

  28. Hope you are feeling better soon, and happy knitting.

  29. I bike when I am sick-no transportation choice! I can't work when I am sick because I work with food and my boss doesn't want germs spread to staff and customers. So sometimes I am only moderately ill but can't go to work so go out for a ride into town or to the beach gleefully. Unless I am really ill with a flu, fever, dizzy I have to bike to get anywhere. From time to time I get an ear infection that causes dizziness which is bad for cycling. I am a sickly girl with all kinds of aches and pains so I am often riding regardless of how I feel.
    I get TERRIBLE colds that go on for weeks. If I am in the throes of the worst of it I try to stay home. plus it seems I have developed exercise induced asthma so that doesn't help. Biking with a fever is NOT a good idea, but colds are just colds no matter how dreadful. I'd love to have a comfy warm car take me to the store, but if I want lemons or rum or cough drops or to see the doctor I have to bike into town. I like to imagine it clears the lungs and gets the virus moving out of the body.
    An upright bike would be better because the position is a real chest opener, but while on drop bars your chest is down and the phlemies are stuck. Is your rivendell really that fast?
    Get well soon! Hot baths with lavender oil!

  30. If I have to go somewhere and I'm sick, I ride. If I'm really sick, I stay in bed, sip tea and sleep/read. :-) But riding feels good when I'm feeling something coming on. I bundle up, get my lungs going and make sure I eat/sleep plenty. I have had lots of success preventing sickness this way.

  31. Thanks again, everyone.

    The knitting is going well. I learned back in the day as a child but haven't done it for a while. There is a very nice yarn store here and it inspired me to give it a try again. I started doing the front and back of the skirt separately, but now realise that this really would be better done circularly - so I am going to let everything out, buy some markers and start again.

  32. I usually avoid exerting myself too much, but I had an odd experience where I had just bought a new road bike, a very fancy machine with a custom fitting, and for one aspect of the adjustments, I was told I should ride it, and while I was fairly sick, I was also taking off for a few weeks on vacation, so I figured I'd go for a ride.

    So I did 30 kilometers, pushing 36 kph by myself, and sustaining 38 kph for a while, drafting one of my co-worker. I was supposed to go further, but after 15 kilometers, I figured out breathing was pretty useful in the activity of cycling. ;-)

  33. I am rarely sick but when I am I go all out and enjoy the sick girl role. This means tea and a light breakfast in bed, trash literature, more tea, hot baths, and napping on the sofa in front of Netflix.

  34. I do. I even use the Yehuda Moon Air Hankie. Ew!


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