I’m sat here typing this whilst dosed up on Day Nurse with a box of tissues and a slightly sore red nose from excessive use of said tissues. Yes, I’ve come down this week with a cold. Whilst the common cold is not a serious illness (unless you have underlying health conditions) it can leave you feeling pretty lousy. The most frustrating thing for me is that it’s messed up my training plan for this week. It started off well with my usual Monday run but Tuesday I woke up with the first signs that illness was about to strike with a sore throat and runny nose. I managed to do a strength training session and on Wednesday, half hour on the cross trainer followed by 30 minutes of swimming later in the day. By Thursday though the congestion and feeling of generally ugh had set in and there was no way I felt well enough to go for the long run I had planned. Fortunately for me I don’t have any big events coming up so I don’t feel the pressure too much to lose a few days of training. But if you do feel that you really need to stick to the plan and get the workouts in, what are the general rules for training when you aren’t well?
From what I can gather from a bit of research, if you are just affected from the neck up ie sore throat and a bit of congestion, light to moderate exercise could help clear your nose with the increase in heart rate and breathing rate but it is important to work at a lesser intensity than usual. However if you have a temperature or symptoms below the neck like a chest infection, upset stomach or muscle aches then you should refrain from exercising.
If you are training for something like a marathon and can’t bear the thought of not doing anything then you could work on your mobility and flexibility instead for a couple of days until the worst of the symptoms pass. A sequence of hip mobility movements for the hip flexors, hamstrings, glutes and inner thighs are all worth doing along with chest openers. If your symptoms aren’t too bad you could go for a walk instead of a run, do jogging instead of sprints or lift lighter weights at the gym and rest more between sets.
The best thing you can do though is listen to your body. It will be telling you if you need to rest so make sure you take heed as not doing so could end up with you taking longer to recover or your illness developing into something else.
Once you do start feeling better, don’t just pick up where you left off as intense exercise can suppress your immune system affecting recovery. Ease yourself back into it and make sure you are properly hydrated and fuelled beforehand.