Should You Train With A Cold or Flu?

It’s that time of the year when viruses are rife and the common cold and flu are, well… common! As someone who loves training, your first reaction isn’t to give up – to be held back by a little sniffle. No, if anything, this is when you feel you need to prove to yourself that you want it bad enough and are willing to train through any obstacle life throws at you for your gains! But taking it easy doesn’t mean you’re being weak; if you’re serious about making gains, you need to learn how to balance staying on track and your body’s need for rest. You need to know how to listen to your body, when to slow down, and how to accelerate your recovery so you can get back to training hard as soon as possible.

Listen to Your Body

The first and most crucial step when training with a cold or flu is to listen to your body. Pay attention to how you feel on any given day, and be prepared to make adjustments to your training plan. If symptoms are above the neck (e.g., runny nose, sneezing, or a sore throat), some light exercise might still be fine. However, if symptoms are below the neck (e.g., chest congestion, body aches, or fever), you need to take it easy and rest.

Adjust Your Training

If training with a cold or flu, it's essential to modify your workouts to ensure you do not over-stress the body. An infection can place a lot of stress on the body, and exercise is also a stressor. If you try to train with too much intensity or volume (i.e., distance or duration), while unwell, you’ll only compromise your immune system further and delay recovery or, worse yet, risk developing a more serious illness, such as pneumonia. A coach can be invaluable at this time to make adjustments to your training plan to help you find the balance between training hard enough to maintain your fitness, strength and muscle mass and providing your body with the rest it needs to fight off the infection.

Stay Hydrated and Maintain Good Nutrition

Hydration and good nutrition are always crucial parts of improving your health and fitness, but they become even more critical when dealing with illness. Adequate fluid intake helps thin mucus and prevents dehydration, which can be exacerbated by fever or respiratory symptoms. Focus on nutrient-dense foods to support your immune system, including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.

Rest and Recovery

Rest is a vital component of recovery when you're under the weather. It's okay to take a break from your regular training routine and give your body the time it needs to heal – you won’t lose all your hard-earned gains that quickly! Adequate rest can expedite the recovery process, preventing the illness from lingering or worsening so that you can get back to proper training sooner. Quality sleep is particularly important during this time, as it plays a key role in immune function and overall well-being.

Avoid High-Risk Environments

Exercising in crowded gyms or where germs can easily spread can compromise your immune system further. When your immune system is compromised, your body can’t fight other pathogens (i.e., germs and viruses) as effectively as usual, leaving you more susceptible to further infection. You also increase the likelihood of spreading the illness to others. While you’re unwell and contagious, consider alternative training options, such as at-home workouts or outdoor activities with limited exposure to others. A coach can design a program that allows you to continue to train in a manner that helps preserve your fitness, strength and muscle mass outside of the gym.

Consult with a Healthcare Professional If Unsure

If you're uncertain about whether to continue training or not, it's always wise to consult with a healthcare professional. They can provide personalized advice based on the severity of your symptoms and your overall health.

Have A Coach Help You Navigate All the Obstacles Life Brings

Life is full of obstacles and surprises that can derail your training and nutrition. The greatest determinant of success in your health and fitness goals is long-term consistency. A coach is there to help you navigate anything life throws at you so that you can stay on track to reach your goals. Whether it is illness, work, family or holidays, our expert coaches know how to help you work around the situation. Have your program tailored to your body, goals, and lifestyle with our online coaching programs so that nothing stops you from getting fitter, faster, stronger, healthier, and in better shape!

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About the author

Daniel Brack

BSc., Pn1, CFT, SEN

From commercial pilot to fitness coach, Daniel changed careers to pursue his passion for health & fitness. He is the founder of Recalibrated Bodies and co-founder and Head Coach of Titan Fitness Algarve. He has a Bachelor of Science in Strength and Conditioning and is a Certified Fitness Trainer and Sports and Exercise Nutritionist. Daniel was an international IFBB men's physique competitor and is a father to two daughters. His passion is helping others become more educated and skilled to reach their health and fitness goals.

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