Don’t Train When You Are Sick

The topic of this post might seem obvious to you but this winter, more than any other winter, I’ve had to talk some sense in to athletes who are fighting a cold/ flu bug and yet continuing to train. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that you don’t want to lose any fitness and fear gaining an extra pound or two but seriously folks, it’s just plain stupid to train when you are ill.

For giggles, here is what I’ve heard this winter …

“I feel fine, I’m on antibiotics”

“I’ve been on sudafed for the last 2 days. Will that affect my test results?”

“I’m about 75% right now, just a cough, night sweats and some phelgm so I only ran 15 miles today”

You get the picture.

Here’s some facts for you…..

  • When you are sick your body is working harder than usual even at rest, to try to kick this bug that has taken hold of you. You will see this in elevated resting heartrate levels that are likely 10bpm higher than your norm. This is a clear sign to back off. If you did train you would likely experience a serious drop in pace and speed at your usual training heartrates. This is a sign that your body is under increased stress and you should listen to it
  • The way you get fitter is by recovering from the training you do and absorbing it, so you can come back stronger. When you are sick this process can’t happen. Any training you do will be inferior plus your body won’t have the resources to absorb it and make you stronger as its busy fighting off the illness. All training actually does is to keep you in a depleted state so that you can’t kick the bug quickly.

So, rest up. That’s right do NOTHING. Let you body recover. Stock up on Vitamins, eat super healthy, become a great sleeper and nap expert. The science is clear that if you do absolutely nothing for 4 days your VO2 won’t drop at all. In fact, you will be giving your body the chance to truly repair at a cellualr level. All the inflammation, aches and strains will have chance to heal fully so when you come back to training you feel actually amazing. It’s very common for athletes I coach to report that after a week off training they feel fresher on every level with some bounce in their stride and a renewed mental approach to the sport.