28 November 2021

Feeling ill? When to train and when not to…

November 1, 2016

It’s the time of year when bugs are everywhere and hard to avoid, it seems every other person is sneezing or coughing right now. So, if you catch a bug and you’re training for a big event – what do you do?


There’s a lot of conflicting advice on the internet ranging from it’s ok to train through a cold to, it’s a dangerous to train with a cold. So what’s sensible?

Firstly it goes without saying that it’s advisable to check with a doctor rather than trying to self-diagnose, but clearly there’s a difference between a runny nose and a full blown fever. The general consensus is that if the infection is above the neck i.e. a head cold, it’s ok to do some light training. But follow this with caution because we all know that head colds can develop into much more.

Think about it, what will you really gain? If you put too much strain on your body it will take longer to shift the bug and you could make it worse. Also just how satisfying will that session be? It might make more sense to use the opportunity to rest and simply do some gentle stretching and mobility exercises instead.

Knowing when to stop
The key to minimising the effect of a bug is detecting it early. If you train regularly you will be well-placed to know if you are going down with something. Listen to your body – if it tells you you are unusually tired or achy and you’re starting to feel under the weather, then stop right there and rest. If you eat well and look after yourself straight away then the bug will clear-up much more quickly.

Maximise recovery
Look after yourself, being sick takes it’s toll and you need to allow yourself to rest. Get lots of sleep, drink plenty of hot fluids including simple home-made remedies like hot lemon and honey or use over-the-counter cold remedies. Remember to minimise infecting others too, sneeze into a hanky, away from people and contain your tissues rather than leave them lying around!


Viral V bacterial
Most colds are viral infections, so antibiotics won’t help. As the names imply, bacterial infections are caused by bacteria and viral infections are caused by viruses. The main difference between the two is that bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics and viral infections cannot. However, If your illness symptoms deteriorate rapidly or continue for more than three days, consult your Doctor.

Knowing when to start training
The longer you have been sick, the longer you will need to recover. If it’s just a short cold, say three days off, allow an extra day of rest, then start back with a short recovery session. Build back into your routine or training plan sensibly, listen to your body and shorten the session or the effort if you need to. If you start to feel ill again, then stop immediately.

If you have had over a week off, then take a full week to build back up. If your event is looming then it’s better to do a couple of easy sessions, just to remind your body what it feels like and view it as your taper.

Be sensible, be realistic, be kind to yourself!

Danielle Sellwood, Sportsister
The Women’s Sport Magazine

Sneeze photo credit: mcfarlandmo – originally posted to Flickr as No273 13 Oct 2009 Sneeze, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10557018


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