Training while Sick

Should you do it? What should you do? Is sweating it out a real thing?
So I’ve been on death’s door the last few days with a serious case of the sickness that shall not be named (whispers: Man Flu!) Now I believe that this is a culmination of a number of things, one being actually sick for a week or so but being in denial and working and training through it, and two all the personal stress that has be mounting in my life lately which included some massive changes like me having to move and find a new place to live. Now I am a firm believer that the condition of our bodies is a direct reflection of the events and stresses that are happening at that exact time. This latest bout of illness I believe was my bodies way of telling me that I needed to shut it down, rest and regather. These messages from our body manifest themselves in different ways and sometimes we listen and sometimes we don’t because let’s face it just because the body wants something doesn’t mean life will allow it. I kept saying to myself that I had to work, I had to train its only a few more weeks until my comeback I can’t afford any days off, and then on Saturday my body put its metaphorical foot down and dropped what felt like a literal tonne of bricks on my head and chest. So needless to say I’ve taken time off completely and I finally feel like I’m coming out of the fog. It does however raise an interesting question of should we be training at all if we feel sick? Are we just further depleting our bodies or does getting out there and getting some adrenaline and endorphins pumping actually help speed recovery?
According to the British Journal of Sport Medicine, physically fit and active people recover more quickly and have less severe symptoms than their sedentary counterparts, so if you’re exercising regularly you’re ahead of the curve already. Men’s Fitness online, wrote an article about training when sick and the medical professional they interviewed suggest that we follow the neck up rule when considering training while sick. The neck up rule is simple, if your symptoms only occur from the neck up you are probably ok to train but within a reduced capacity. Meaning if you’re already fatigued due to your illness there is no point in going out there and trying to do 100% of your work out. I personally concur with this idea, there are many times when I have just had a sore throat and mild congestion and I was able to train no problem in fact I feel/felt that training created relief from some of this symptoms. Conversely if you have symptoms like chest congestion or muscles aches and things “below the neck” then training is currently not for you my friend

Check out the article:
Another really good article which gets more into the science behind how our immunities work and how exercises and stress actually impact our immunities is here on Precision Nutrition.  In summary the article refers to training and risk of infection in J-shape Curve, meaning that at the beginning of the curve with minimal activity and moderate risk of infection, in the middle is moderate activity which results in little to no risk of infection and finally is high intensity active such a running a marathon which can affect your immune system for up to 72 hours!! So if we apply this to training while we are already sick being a couch potato, while not the greatest is actually far better than going to the gym and crushing and extended cardio or resistance training work out which will negatively affect immune function. However going to the gym and doing a short light jog or a shortened resistance program can actually help boost the function of the immune system, so the adage of sweat it out does have some validity, if its a moderate sweat that is.

Hopefully this helped answer some of your questions about training if you’re sick but at the end of the day the ultimate answer is do you feel like you can train? Ignore whatever your ego or agenda might be telling you to do and listen to your body because overdoing it can set you back even further so listen to your body. We are all individuals and if you feel like training when you’re sick then I say train but if you feel tired and crappy get in bed read a book and chill the eff out.
Seb Pearson

Be Battle Ready