Flu Season – Should you Train or Not

Posted on 21 December 2011

Winter is here and with it comes the cold and flu season. We would all like to just “power through it” and continue with our training, but at what point is that doing more harm than good?

Do we just stop training and wait for full recovery or train through it?  It’s important to remember that once you do get sick the main goal is to get back to your regular training as quickly as possible without regressing into sickness again.

Be sure to evaluate how you really feel (and not how you wish you felt). In most cases you can continue training through a cold, sore throat, or even some flu like symptoms.  According to an article on www.runnersworld.com:

“David Nieman, Ph.D., who heads the Human Performance Laboratory at Appalachian State University, and has run 58 marathons and ultras, uses the “neck rule.” Symptoms below the neck (chest cold, bronchial infection, body ache) require time off, while symptoms above the neck (runny nose, stuffiness, sneezing) don’t pose a risk to runners continuing workouts.”

Remember, your energy levels will be reduced as your body fights your illness, so allow for a shorter, less intense workout. However if you’re facing a fever, no training! Raising your body temperature too much can actually make you sicker than you already are. Keep this in mind: general cold like symptoms can be miserable, but often running outside can help to clear your congestion and actually make you feel better.  Pay attention to your body if you decide to attempt even light training.

If you feel excessive fatigue after training, you may have pushed too hard or for too long. Focus on immediate replenishment of fluids and calories as you may find you become dehydrated quicker (especially if you’re taking certain medications).  Cold air can work both for and against you when you are ill. Depending on your illness, cold air can perk you up and clear up your head or the cold can aggravate any respiratory issues you may already be having.  Personally, I have found that cycling on an indoor trainer or slow jogging on the treadmill allow me to get my workout in while keeping the effects of the environment out of the equation.

Lewis G. Maharam, MD, a New York City-based sports medicine expert says, “Do what you can do, and if you can’t do it, then don’t.”  (http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/features/exercising-when-sick)  Seems like pretty sage advice.

It might seem like your cold will never end, but it will eventually. Once it does, it is important to be careful not to push your body too hard. If you over exert yourself too soon after an illness you may find yourself even sicker than you were to begin with. Take it easy. If necessary, begin with a brisk walk and slowly work back up to a jog then to running. Remember, a few days off your exercise schedule should have very little impact, if any, on your training. Listen to your body and, if need be, stop your workouts entirely and rest. Otherwise you may find you’re out of the game even longer than was necessary.

Check out http://blog-healthcaretips.blogspot.com/2011/10/four-alternative-exercise-when-sick.html for alternative exercises you can do when you are sick.




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