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To Train or Not To Train??

Posted on June 19th, 2018 by Andries Lodder

By Jennifer Steele

Its that time of year, cold and flu season is officially upon us. If you are an athlete or even just training for a specific event getting the dreaded flu can really put a spanner in your training program. One of the biggest frustrations that comes along with the flu, is deciding when to train through illness and when to take time off. Below are a few guidelines that can help you make a decision on whether to train or not. 

When to train and when not to train:

A Cold

The common cold is inflammation of the upper respiratory tract. Symptoms include a runny nose and sore throat. There is no cough, body aches, fever or chills.

When suffering from a cold it is advisable to take it easy. Doing light exercise such as a brisk walk or slow jog appears to have no adverse reactions on the body. However, high intensity exercise should still be avoided.

The Flu:

The flu on the other hand is a viral infection. Symptoms include, muscles aches, fever and chills, a cough, extreme tiredness and swollen glands.

The best advice is to stop entirely when you have the flu. The only way to get back into training quickly when you have the flu is to fully rest and allow the body to recover. When the symptoms have fully subsided and you are better you can go back to training.

There are a few rare but highly dangerous conditions that can occur when the body is put under strain when ill with the flu. Most notably, Viral Cardiomyopathy and Viral Polymyositis. Simply put when the body is attacked by a virus it can lead to temporary weakening of the muscles cells of the body. This can extend to the muscle cells of the heart. The problem comes in when you exercise and the heart muscle is placed under strain. This can lead to inflammation and even paralysis of the heart if it is already inflected with a virus.

Simple Guides:

A simple way to determine if you are sick enough to take the day off is using the neck test. If the symptoms are only present above your neck, then you are clear to do light activity. However, if they are below and in your chest you should rather take the day and next few days off to rest. 

Returning to Training:

It is also important to remember that going back to pre-illness training immediately can result in a relapse and further illness. After a high intensity session, the body’s immune system is temporarily compromised and so immediately jumping into a HIIT session after illness can lead to a relapse.

It can be frustrating taking time off from training to recover, especially when training for a specific event but rather take the extra few days off.  Starting up again to soon means you risk having to take another week or two off due to relapse. It is also important to remember that you will not lose much fitness. Taking just the time off that a common cold take to subside is short and so your fitness will almost be what it was pre-illness.  However, this time taken off should not be seen as a taper in training.

Guidelines for coming back:

  • After a cold or flu there will be lingering fatigue that lasts for a week or two. The first few sessions back should be done at what you would consider 50-75% of your max.
  • The first workout session back should be very light to allow the body to avoid the body being placed under too much stress. Start with a recovery session such as a brisk walk, yoga or Pilates, stretch or even an easy swimming session.
  • Avoid a high intensity session for at least a week after illness especially the flu.
  • Allow more rest days in your training program for the first two to three weeks back after the flu in order to allow your body to adjust and avoid relapse. 

Please take note that the above are just guidelines about when to train and when not to. Always make sure to get approval from your GP or doctor before continuing your training when feeling ill. Make sure to listen to your body and use common sense instead of trying to push yourself. This is very dangerous and can make your condition far worse. 

For more advice about training don’t hesitate to contact us . 


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