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Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Exercise with illness

I am not talking about mental illness, or other chronic physical issues.  We can cover those in later posts if you like, but in this case I am referring to colds, headaches & other issues.  It is usually obvious if you have a major illness that you cannot workout. That is not the issue I am addressing here, the main problem is borderline illness.  Should you lift weights with a cold?  Should you run that 10Km run with a cough?
Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules to illness, but there are a few guidelines.  Never train if you have a fever or are feeling dizzy. The body heats up when you exercise, if you already have a fever, then the added temperature rise could cause serious issues. If you are dizzy then the chances of injury are not worth the risk as you could fall, lose balance or drop a weight, fatigue will increase the chances of that happening.  Light cardio can actually help at the start of a cold, opening the airways & improving mucus flow (which sounds awful, but is actually a good thing).  Notice I said ‘light’ aerobic activity, a flat out 10Km run will depress the immune system & possibly cause more serious symptoms to develop, so the best plan is a light session.  That can be bodyweight resistance work, or light cardio work, no maximum output sessions.

Why did you get ill?

This can be for a number of reasons.  If you are under-conditioned your body is less able to fight off diseases.  Conversely, if you are over-conditioned your immune system can be depressed & so you can become ill more easily.  Times of high stress, dieting or hard workouts can also lead to an increased chance of illness.  Optimal health is achieved by modifying your training & lifestyle to what is happening in your life.  If stress is high, then backing off the training & focusing upon recovery may be the best option.  At times when stress is low pushing the training for a while might help build your body to its next level of development.
 Also every immune system has a ‘blueprint’ of diseases. If you have been exposed to the disease (or immunity was passed on by your mother), then you will fight off the disease very quickly, if however your body has to design a new defence from scratch to repel the invader, then you will often suffer more as the body battles an unknown attacker.

How long should you wait

There are no rules, but generally you can use this guide:

  • 3 days for a sniffle
  • 7 days for a full cold
  • 2 weeks for flu

These are ballpark figures as your recovery depends on the bacteria or virus you catch, your bodies reaction to the disease, the health of your body when you get the disease, so if you are not recovered within those timeframes, take as long as you need (plus a few days of recuperation after the symptoms disappear).

If you get ill

If illness strikes the first thing to do is to honestly assess how bad the illness is.  After that, you need to consider outside factors like stress, work schedule etc.  If you decide to workout then go easier than you think, pick light bodyweight movements, easy cardio or similar.  Be extra careful with post-workout recovery & take in extra fluid.  Also be willing to modify workouts or even cancel them if symptoms increase.

The final decision

Everyone will get ill at some point. All of us have to choose whether to push through or rest when we come down with a disease.  Your ability to know your body & know which course to take can mean the difference between a few days off & being bedridden for a longer time.  Always tend towards rest if you have any doubts as rest rarely causes issues, but over-working can be achieved easily during times of illness.  Listen to your body & react honestly to what it is saying to you.  You have plenty of time to be a Kryptonian, trying to do that during illness will only set you back further.

Hopefully illness won’t visit you very often, but when it does be sure you treat it with respect & think about your actions carefully.