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To Train or Not to Train While Sick...

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By Mackenzie Madison (usatriathlon.org)

 

If you’re an athlete, becoming sick while training can be frustrating. Deciding whether to keep training or even to stop training is equally frustrating. Your decision should be based upon the benefits and risks of training during the illness and the severity of the illness. We are balancing compromises between detraining but hastening recovery, maintaining fitness but potentially prolonging the illness or disease.

In your favor, athletes are generally less susceptible to common viral illness, have better immune competency and recover quicker.(1, 2) Studies have shown that exercise at low to moderate intensities boosts the immune system activity, temporarily. Not in your favor, the immune system weakens following highly stressful training or racing. The perfect storm for crippling the immune system includes cumulative high-intensity and long-duration training to exhaustion, sleep deprivation, severe caloric restriction, strong psychological stress and having more than a single illness. Gremlins aside, just doing a longer race typically suppresses the immune system for up to 72 hours. ...

 

Dr. Greg Madison exposes the dangers of pushing too hard when under the weather. “A couple of rare but dangerous complications of viral illness are viral cardiomyopathy and viral polymyositis. In these conditions, the virus invades the muscle of the heart and skeletal systems to a much greater degree than the typical body aches of cold or flu.” These effects can be permanent so don’t overdo it. 

So how should you determine whether or not to get in a training session? If symptoms are "above the neck" such as sneezing, coughing or a runny nose, then you can still exercise with some limitations. However, you should simply rest If your symptoms are "below the neck" such as chest congestion, stomach and intestinal symptoms, achiness, a measured fever or if you have the flu.(3)....READ MORE

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