How Soon After A Cold Or Being Ill Should You Train Or Race?

How soon after a cold or being ill should you train or race?

If you have a cold or flu or just feel unwell you are better not training and allow the immune system time to strengthen.
From personal experience and speaking to hundreds of athletes and working with many multi-sport athletes I have come to the personal conclusion.
Working out can lower the immune system so this is likely to reduce the ability of the immune system that has specific cells that deal with infection.
It is a well known fact that the immune system is more effective with less mental and physical stress.
After vigorous exercise or a competition we are more susceptible to bacteria or viral infection taking hold for many hours afterwards.
Listen to what your body is telling you.
If you exercise when ill you can ether make the illness worse or delay the recovery process.
Start training too soon even if it feels easy from my experience can delay recovery by twice as much. An extra days rest rather than training can mean you recover much quicker then can start training without future interruptions.
Aches & Pains – joints or muscle aches and pains means you are trying to overcome a bug. = DO NOT TRAIN GET MORE REST.

Fever- elevated body temperature is stress on the body, even easy training further increase our core temperature which both cause strain on the immune system which is likely to delay your ability to recover.

Upset stomach – Unable to digest or keep solids in your stomach means you will low on energy causing further strain for the immune system = DO NOT TRAIN GET MORE REST
Coughing – If you are coughing up flem from the lungs you have a respiratory infection. = DO NOT TRAIN GET MORE REST

When to train after being sick or unwell.
How soon after you have?
Cold 3-4 days after starting to feel better (no symptoms)

Flu – allow at least 7 days after feeling better (no symptoms)

Start slowly keep your heart rate 10-20 beats per minute lower than normal AT ALL TIME DURING YOUR WORK OUT. Illness increases the body metabolism as your body is fighting the bacteria or virus. Hence this elevates our resting heart rate.

If this is not possible then end the session straight away. Do not worry about speed. Using a treadmill stationary bike you can always stop if you feel un well unlike if you are a long way from home you have to get back. Do not worry if it takes several weeks to get back into a routine.
Signs you are back to normal include when you feel mentally better, you are not fatigued after several work outs.
How much
Train for 25-50% of your normal time or distance.
Avoid weight training initially or reduce weights by at least 25%.
Base your getting back to training based on how your fatigue levels straight after a work out then in the next 4-6 hours and then the next day.
You are unlikely to lose fitness by not training, don’t forget being ill takes its toll and the rest from physical activity. Consistency is more important than getting back into exercise then having to stop then start then stop again.
Avoid hard exercise until you are fully recovered. You can judge this when your mind and body wants to try hard again and you bounce back quickly. Start too soon your could soon end up ill again or worse end up in bed and more sick than at any time during your illness. Starting to train with a recent illness you will need to strengthen your immune system.
Do not under estimate feeling under par and exercise as even the easiest work out can help you.
Improve your immune system with the following tips.
Eat fruit and vegetables because you need vitamin C to maintain your immune system.
Do not be extra busy get extra sleep because this will help your immune system.


Avoid contact or protect yourself from others because your immune system is low you may be more susceptive to a different infection. Wash hands at every opportunity and avoid touching your face during a gym work out, the gym water aid station bathroom knobs or door handles.
Use a towel or antiseptic wipes before using each work station and use another towel for your face and body. If you have felt better or feeling good for at least 4 days although you will still have the bugs inside you train at below 70% of your maximum. No reactions then build up the volume to what you did before but Not More.
If you are still medication continue the full course even if you feel better and ask for expert advice when should you train again. Do not start exercise until at least 2 days after finishing your prescription.

If it is cold outside then train indoors because adds an extra stress so train indoors otherwise you will weaken rather then strengthen your immune system.
Keep warm at all times avoid getting cold as this will reduce your all weakened immune system.

You can always put in a great performance if your fitness is improving rushing back with intermittent training will not do that.

Never try and train if you believe you have or had a viral infection.

Never train if you have an increase in normal body temperature, if in doubt & you cannot take your body temperature DO NOT TRAIN.

Never train if the sickness has caused dehydration, the following can cause dehydration diarrhea sweating vomiting etc.

Never train for 36 hour after every symptom has disappeared.

Never try and play catch up by jumping to next weeks training plan instead go back to where you left off. Being healthy on race day is far more important than just ticking boxes. You are far more likely to have a great race even if you fall short of any training plan you have been following rather than leap frogging onto next weeks plan.

Take your upon waking resting heart rate and if it is back to normal for at least mornings then you are ONLY ready to get back into training. (This assumes you knew your normal healthy resting heart rate). If it is 5 or more beats higher than normal hold back volume and intensity.
Neck up or Neck down health check. Ask yourself truthfully are your symptoms above or below the neck.
Above the neck – stuffy or running nose watery eyes then it is Ok to get back into training but not at 100%
Symptoms below the neck then NO do not train – coughing and any sign of sore throat. Achy or painful joints fever tight chest Never Train. Truth or Myth- it is doubtful that you can sweat out a cold by training. I have not seen any evidence to suggest otherwise. Do not forget that intense workouts reduce the immune system for as much as 9 hours and WILL DELAY THE HEALING PROCESS. Being ill compromises health and your fitness. It can take at least 48 hours to completely rehydrate after a bout of dehydration so avoid hard exercise.
Your body simply cannot do both recover repair and heal itself.
Above all stay hydrated and snack on fruits and fruit juices straight after training.

10 minute healthy test –

How did you feel during an EASY WORKOUT?

Then straight after?

4 hours later?

Upon waking up the next day?
If you answered great to good you have Not got the all clear but are on the road to recovery.
Staying in damp clothing reduces your immune system so change into dry clean warm clothing as soon as possible.
A fever is a virus which can get onto the heart muscle so NEVER train or RACE it is not worth the risk.
A sore throat can also be a sign of bacterial strep infection exercise too hard and it can then lead to respiration problems so if you must EXERCISE EASY.
If you are soon fatigued after a work out or become exhausted or at rest you find your muscles have a deep fatigue or breathing is deeper than normal then take at least 2 days rest No training.
Finally listen to your body and expect to go through a wave of feeling better Ok then worse until you have fully recovered.

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This article is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice.