Training After Illness

Few of us manage to get through the year without contracting some form of cold or flu. Symptoms vary from very mild irritations to immobilising severity and therefore the ability to undertake any kind of activity at all whist affected varies widely too.

When exactly IS it safe to resume exercise when you have or are recovering from a cold or flu?

Whilst experts may give their advice based on medical principles, you are most probably still the best judge of when you should resume your fitness programme as it will depend on how severe your illness was, how you coped with it and how you feel now.

It may depend on where your symptoms lie

As a general rule, if your remaining symptoms are ‘above the neck’ then the chances are you’ll be able to train pretty close to normal. This would include having a runny nose, watery eyes or even a mildly sore throat – all annoying in their own right of course, but unlikely to cause you serious trouble as you break a sweat.

‘Below the neck’ symptoms on the other hand may be more of an issue. A stubborn cough, tight chest or muscle weakness will not only get in the way of your ability to reach your workout goals, they will also result in your body reaching a level of exhaustion which could be damaging, or, at the very least, well…exhausting!

The general rules with virus’ and fevers

If you’ve suffered from a virus, your recovery can feel like it is taking an absolute age – symptoms are known to last for weeks after you think the virus has gone. Whilst there’s a common belief that sweating out a virus is a good idea, caution is still strongly advised. Respected physicians say that bringing up your body temperature may aid its ability to fight a virus, but anything other than light to moderate activity can do much more harm than good. In fact, hard exercise can seriously compromise the body’s immune system for many hours afterwards, adding extra stress at a time when your system is already flat-out, fighting the infection.

When it comes to having a fever, the advice of most medical professionals is to avoid exercise altogether. Fainting is a real possibility, but over-exertion can lead to even more serious damage - in extreme cases to the heart, as this most vital of muscles becomes inflamed.

Leave the catch-up until your body can handle it

I personally, 100% understand how those who have become attached to their daily fitness fix find it difficult to give it a miss for more than a week (some might even struggle to give it up for those 7 days!). The truth is however that the quality of the exercise you get is just as important as its frequency and, let’s face it, when you’re getting over a serious virus or true influenza (not just the Man Flu variety) the quality of your workout isn’t going to be great.

Whatever your illness was, and however quickly you return to your training schedule, I always urge caution. Slow and steady is the way to do it, checking in with how your body feels and stopping immediately if you feel weak, dizzy or nauseous. 

Exercising when your body is simply not up to it may take you further from your fitness goals, so I am always at hand to help clients decide what’s best for their particular situation and get them back on track when it is safe to do so.