You might have noticed that my training blog, which is normally published on Tuesdays, has arrived a day late this week. I have to confess, it’s because I have fallen victim to the cold and flu season, just in time for Spring! Awesome.
Falling ill is something that happens to all of us at one point or another throughout the season. Whether it’s the common cold or flu or something a little more serious, the question you often hear from athletes, including motorcycle racers, is “Should I train when I am sick?”
While very little research has been done on training when you’re ill, the general rule of thumb is that if the symptoms are above the neck and you have no fever, then it’s safe to train (unless you’re talking about a concussion and that’s a whole other matter that I’ll talk about at a later date). My own rule of thumb has been to listen to your body. If you’re feeling worn down and you start to show signs of illness, taking 1-2 rest days from training will provide your body with a much needed break.
During that time, you’ll want to get plenty of sleep, drink lots of water and lay off alcohol and coffee that will only serve to dehydrate you.
Should you decide to continue training despite having a cold or minor illness, then you might want to consider scaling back your training and reducing the workload and duration of your exercise sessions until you feel better. Consider doing light, easy cardio sessions or reducing your strength sessions by 25%. There are in fact some studies that suggest that exercising while you have the common cold does not do any harm, and may in fact even make you feel better. Of course, it’s important to use common sense, and if you’ve got a fever or aches and pains it’s likely best to avoid training. If your symptoms worsen with training, then you should refrain from doing your workouts until you are feeling better.
If you’re following a training plan and you opt to take a few days to recover from illness, the next question a lot of athletes often ask is, “Once I feel better, where do I pick up my workout program again? Do I start where I left off or attempt the next scheduled training session as if I never took time off?” This is a tough call, but any trainers I have ever had throughout the years have always told me to simply begin with the next workout on my training plan, without trying to make up the lost workouts. If you’ve been training on a regular basis, it’s okay to miss a day or two and jump right back into the swing of things once you’re better. The situation is of course a little different if you’re off due to illness or injury for more than 2-3 weeks, at which point you probably want to consult with a doctor about your return to training, and ease yourself back into your workouts.
At the end of the day rest is just as important as training and our bodies are very good about telling us when we need a break. If you’re sick with a common cold or flu, then listen to what your body is telling you and give it the rest it needs. If you treat your body with proper rest, water and nutrition, you’ll bounce back in no time!