Should you or shouldn’t you train when you’re sick??
In a nutshell, I think the answer is “listen to your body.” When I feel a cold coming on, I almost always cut back volume and/or intensity, but it often helps me feel a lot better to get in a modified workout. This is of course on both a physical and psychological level. For example, I went for an easy ride last Wed, a group Thanksgiving Day run, and played a little basketball on Fri. I could tell that I wasn’t 100%, but it felt great to work up a sweat.
Listening to your body also means knowing when to pull the plug. Saturday for example I had wanted to get in a short bike and/or run, but I was feeling completely wiped out. The thought of powering through a workout sounded terrible, and all I wanted to do was lay down. In those situations you have to be disciplined enough to let it go and rest up.
In addition to my experiences, I did a little research on the subject and found the following general info & guidelines:
- First of all, good news: fit people recover more quickly and experience milder symptoms than more sedentary folks according to various studies, yet another benefit of exercise
- If you feel as if you're coming down with a typical cold you can still exercise without significant limitations
- That said, obviously cut back if you feel worse after your workout. Take a few days off or reduce your effort to 50%.
- Remember the “above-the-neck” rule: if your symptoms include a runny nose, dry cough or sneezing you should be fine to exercise. Rest if your symptoms are below the neck, such a chest congestion, muscle aches, upset stomach, etc.
- Stay home if you have a fever, stomach symptoms or the flu
- If you're wiped out with fatigue there's no reason to work out. Also remember you're contagious the first 5-7 days.
- Rest allows your immune system to recover
- The basics: get plenty of sleep, fluids, and use OTC medications to help with symptoms
- Don't go 100% the first three or four days back. Start at 75% and increase gradually for the first week or so.
Happy (and healthy) training this Holiday Season!