"I'm sick. Should I train or not?"
That question pops up on forums all the time. The answer? Yes, you should train!
This article will show you the benefits of training while having a cold and why you might even get some of the best workouts of your life! In addition, I'll share some strategies for cutting the timeframe of a cold in half. Let's get started.
3 Reasons to Train When Sick
Usually when people catch a cold, they really get into it. They start walking around like death, put their sick clothes on (you know, nasty pajamas, etc.) and sit on the couch all day watching truck driving school commercials and talking to anyone that's willing to listen to their sob story.
To make the experience more memorable, medications are taken from the very first sneeze until the symptoms start declining. The fun usually lasts for a couple of weeks and then you start feeling like your normal self again. While I realize that many people enjoy being sick and take pleasure from the attention that often comes with it, there's a better way. While it may seem counterintuitive, training while sick can be advantageous for three reasons:
1) It helps you get over a cold faster. Top strength coach Bill Starr states that training while sick "...helps flush useful healing nutrients through the body and aids in expelling toxins." In other words, training helps purge your sick toxic body and will get you back to normal faster.
2) You'll find that you're actually stronger when training while sick! How's this possible? Starr stated the following : "when you got sick, your immune system releases antibodies in profusion to combat the invading toxins and microorganisms. Those antibodies are strength enhancers. This is especially true in the early stages of any illness."
Hard to believe, but your body is stronger when you're sick than when you feel great. Look through your training log and you'll realize that you've probably already experienced this phenomenon. Think of a time when you felt great only to end up having a terrible workout. Now think of a time when you felt horrible and didn't feel like training, but sucked it up anyway and went on to have a fantastic workout.
Remember how empowered you felt afterwards? This feeling of empowerment is the third reason why training while sick is productive.
3) Sitting around and being miserable gets you further into the role of a victim. You admit to yourself that you're powerless and act accordingly. Be a man! Take charge of the obstacle and blast through it.
Even if you don't get a great workout, just doing something positive when you feel negative will give you a sense of control, which can't be overlooked. Time to relinquish the trend of being a victim and blaming others for your problems. Be a revolutionary and actually take charge of the situation!
How to Train When Sick
Different rules apply to different illnesses, so continue reading before you make the mistake of doing the wrong workout for your situation.
If you have a cold in which your symptoms are sneezing, coughing and a runny nose, then you should be able to do some low volume strength training sessions. While you'll find that you can lift heavier weights than normal, you'll probably find that your muscular endurance is compromised. Now is not the time to try out high volume programs such as German Volume Training or Escalating Density Training (EDT)
However, it's a great time to try some lower volume program.
The possibilities are endless; just focus on compound movements with low volume and fairly high intensity. Avoid training to failure, but feel free to go to your limit on the second set of each exercise.
Important Rules For Training When Sick
While strength training can be very beneficial when you have a cold, training with some serious flu symptoms such as impaired breathing due ti severe lungs inflammation can be a mistake. If that's the case, forget about training.
However, this doesn't mean you should sit around like a couch potato watching re-runs. Go for walks every day to get some fresh air and do some light bodyweight training to enhance the immune system and provide a feeling of empowerment. Just don't do anything taxing that'll hamper breathing.
Other Things to Consider
Besides appropriate training, there are a few other things you can do to speed up the healing progress. One effective method for kicking a cold fast is to use a dry sauna for twenty to thirty minutes a day.
The best time to use a dry sauna is after training. The sauna will build up a sweat and supposedly expel the toxins from your body faster. I really believe you can cut the time of a cold in half by using a dry sauna. Just make sure you're not exposed to cold air after using the sauna. Take a shower afterwards, get dried off quickly, and get a nap in. You'll be amazed at how much better you feel.
Massage therapy is another effective method, but not a cool thing to do to the therapist that's working on you, as he or she will most likely catch whatever you have. However, if you happen to know a massage therapist you don't like, now is a perfect time to share the love.
On With Recovery!
No one likes catching a cold or getting smacked with the flu. Regardless, it happens from time to time even to the best of us. Nevertheless, you don't have to take it like a victim. Take charge of the situation. Again, if you're fighting off a cold, it's likely you'll find that you're stronger and may even hit some new personal records. Sounds crazy, but it happens.
Ironically, you'll probably find that you're weaker for the first week after you recover fully. My theory is that the body released a lot of antibodies to fight off the cold, putting you into an imbalanced state. Once you fully recover, your body goes the opposite direction and then eventually comes back to normal.
Use the week that you recover from a cold as a back-off week. Reduce the training intensity so you're in the 70% range and keep the volume moderate. The week after the cold recovery period, you should feel strong and ready to go.
Instead of getting down the next time you catch a cold, get excited as you might have the best training week you've had in a long time!