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Training When You Are Under The Weather

Being down with a cold and /or flu can really hamper your training plan. Can you continue?

Athletes can be as stubborn as mules sometimes. Often type A, we move mountains to get to the gym or complete our weekly training plan. Dedication and determination are fine traits, but what about when life throws obstacles in your way - such as the dreaded winter cold or flu?

Should you push through and train when you are sick, or bundle up on the sofa with a hot drink and watch a flick instead?

Here are a few considerations when grappling with that question.

  • A 2011 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine discovered that fitter people recover from illnesses quicker and experience less severe symptoms than non-active people. Good news for fitness junkies.

 
  • Follow the above-the-neck rule: if you’ve got a runny nose, a dry cough or are sneezing, you should be fine to exercise. However, rest if your symptoms are below the neck, such as chest congestion, muscular aches and pains, and/or an upset stomach.

 
  • If you feel as if you're coming down with a common cold you can still exercise without too many limitations. That said, if you feel worse after your workout it’s your body telling you to cut back. Take a few days off or reduce your effort to around half of your normal capacity. Walk instead of running, or do fewer and less intense sets in the gym.

 
  • Stay home if you have a fever, stomach symptoms or the flu. If you're seriously fatigued there's no point training or working out. And remember, you're contagious the first five to seven days. Stay home and get some much needed rest to allow your immune system to recover.

 
  • Colds typically last for a week to 10 days but it may take you up to three weeks to recover from the flu. Don't go all-out for the first three or four days after sickness. Ease into your normal workout with caution and increase distances and intensities gradually for the first week or so.


As the above points indicate, it’s of paramount importance to decide on the severity of your sickness. If it’s full blown flu, stay home and recover. Your body has nothing to gain from trying to train or work out when your immune system is under such threat. If it’s just a cold, do some training or workout but take it easy on yourself. Adapting the weekly training plan and allowing for flexibility in such circumstances is crucial.

By: Kerry Hale

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