When you’re motivated to workout, the onset of a cold can be a real dilemma. Advice from your mother, your friends, your online sources…all tell you different things. Sweat out your cold, stay home and rest, exercise will just make you sicker. It’s hard to know what to do, so many people just skip their workouts and stay home.

But that’s not always necessary. Deciding whether or not to exercise when you’re sick is a grey area, but here are 3 questions to help make your decision:

Is it above the neck?
If you have a head cold with a stuffy nose and light cough but you feel OK otherwise, it’s OK to workout. If your symptoms include chest congestion, a raw throat, achy muscles, it’s better to rest at home. If you decide to hit the gym, remember that you could be spreading your illness to others, so be sure to clean your equipment after use.

Do you have enough energy?
If you’re feeling well enough to go to the gym, or head outside for a run, then chances are it’s OK to work out, but consider reducing the intensity and duration of your exercise. If you usually run 30 minutes, try a shorter distance or take a brisk walk instead. If you lift heavy, try reducing the weights. You’re getting the benefits without taxing your system too much. If you begin to feel worse after your workout, take a few days off or reduce your effort to half your normal capacity.

Is it contagious?
If you have the flu or a severe respiratory illness like bronchitis or strep throat it is definitely not a good idea to go to the gym and risk passing it along to others. The most responsible decision is to stay home for a few days until you’re beyond the highly contagious stage. When you do return to the gym, make sure to wash your hands and clean the machines and equipment when you’re finished.

How do you know when it’s OK to get back to your fitness routine?
Always listen to your body and wait for your energy level and breathing to return to normal. Colds typically last for a week to 10 days, but you may need as many as two to three weeks to recover from the flu. Don’t go full out the first time back, take the first week to work back up to 100 percent. If you try to go back too soon, you may take longer to recover.