It’s that time of year (winter) when everyone and their mother gets sick at some point. I know a lot of people ask Jim if they should train when sick. The short answer is: YES… but at a lower intensity. If you have the flu, then rest.
When we get sick, oftentimes we get caught up in our sickness. By that I mean, we rely on medicine and we start to take on our “sick persona.” We sit on the couch all day and watch reality TV shows until we tell ourselves to feel better. If you aren’t one of these people, then good for you – keep being awesome! My point is that a lot of times when people get sick, they use it as an excuse to go off their diet and their program. It’s just an excuse to be lazy sometimes.
Training when you’re sick can actually be advantageous, possibly helping you get rid of your cold faster by getting the blood flowing throughout your body. (Not that I’m a licensed medical expert – when in doubt, consult a physician.) Training is also going to put you in a better mood. Get off your butt and force yourself to move to get out of that terrible mood you’re in from sitting on the couch all day. If I sit on the couch all day even when I’m not sick, I’m in a terrible mood, so watch out if I’m sick when I do it!
Now, you’re probably not going to hit some PRs if you train while sick or even have a “good” workout for that matter. But training will still be something positive in your day when you feel negative, and it can give you a sense of control over your situation.
If you have a cold in mostly your sinuses (sneezing, coughing, runny nose, etc.), you can probably keep to your normal routine you’ve been doing. Just lower the intensity and lower the volume (maybe around 70% of your usual efforts), depending how you’re feeling throughout the workout. I recommend increasing your rest times as well for better recovery. Also, if your cold lasts, say, a week, consider dropping a couple of training session if you’re training more than four times per week.
Now, if you have flu-like symptoms (fever, body aches, etc.) then I say REST. Do not push yourself. Your body is already trying to recover from the virus it has, so adding recovery from a workout will just be counterproductive to you getting better. If you’re not feeling dizzy or light-headed, maybe just go for a couple brisk walks throughout the time you have the flu, but not much more than that.
Like I said, you don’t want to be a total couch potato. But if you have dizziness or are light-headed, I wouldn’t recommend doing much, especially if you’re by yourself. If you’re a die-hard gym rat like most of us are, don’t be a hero if you have the flu. Stay home and rest – your body is asking for it!
So, if you’re a Negative Nancy and become a vegetable when you’re sick, I recommend taking another perspective and getting off your butt to train to aid your recovery!