Thursday, December 4, 2014

Should You Train When You're Sick??

Thanksgiving was great this year, with family coming in from the east coast and Texas for a nice gathering. Especially this time of year, when you pack a lot of people under one roof, the chance of germs spreading like wildfire increases dramatically. What seemed to start with my daughter soon was passed to me, my wife, dad, and brother-in-law. It was just your run-of-the-mill cold… sore throat turning to leaky faucet nose turning to cough, but I was feeling pretty run-down for a few days. From a training perspective the timing was good, as it was a planned recovery week for me anyways. However, I once again was faced with the age old question:

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!

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