Should I still work out when I feel sick?

The short answer is ‘no’.


You must keep in mind what the point is to ‘training’; this being that you’re trying to stress your body (physically and aerobically) in such a way that the recovery from this stress yields greater strength and endurance specific to your activity.


When you’re sick you’re body is being stressed and taxed differently than if you were swimming, biking, or running (or Nordic skiing, riding on indoor-trainer, joining workout classes at the gym, etc.), however you’re still being left fatigued.  This additional fatigue reduces your ability to achieve ‘quality’ in your training.  The best thing training can do for you while you’re sick is give you numbers to fill into your training log; sadly those are simply unproductive numbers and do very little than fill in blanks.


Furthermore, you have to remember that hard training when you’re healthy puts your body at risk to being sick.  Hard training, leading to fatigue, can weaken the immune system making you susceptible to becoming sick.  If you are already sick, and go and train anyways, your limiting your body’s ability to fight off whatever is making you sick, meaning you’re just going to be out of your routine for even longer.


When you get sick your focus should be on getting better as soon as possible.  You should only do activities that are conducive to getting well again.  If you really need to ‘train’ you could try EASY water running in warm pool, or an easy ride indoors (easy = Z1 and </= 20-30min), but you’re better off to have a hot bath, long sauna/steam bath, and extra naps to help ensure that you get better quickly.


Keep in mind, that your first day ‘feeling good’ is not the day to go out and play ‘catch up’ by hammering out your favourite workout.  You’re body will still be fatigued from the effort to get well and you don’t want to bury yourself immediately after feeling better.  Ease back into your training, almost like starting a recovery week after a hard training week.  Do not consider your ‘week sick’ as a ‘recovery week’ and start back into your training like you’re fresh and ready to go.  You may feel 200% better than you did when you’re sick, and you’re no doubt worried about the training you missed (which, really, you shouldn’t be if you keep the big picture in mind), but deep inside your body is still fatigued and you need to take it easy as you get back into training.


Wolfgang Guembel – NRG Associate Coach