“ Should I train if I’m feeling a bit ill?"
This is something I get asked a lot! The average adult will get around 2-4 common colds a year, and with children it rises to at least 6-8 so unfortunately we will all be used to having a few weeks of the year where we are not feeling at our best. Illnesses like the common cold or a stomach bug spread around so quickly, and also remember that getting ill can be your body's way of showing you that you are run down – perhaps you’ve been overdoing it, or not resting enough.
As a general rule, the advice is that if you’re feeling mild symptoms in your throat or above e.g sore throat, runny nose, sniffles or slight headache and if you can put up with it, then it is ok to train, and mild exercise can boost your immunity. Just be aware that you aren’t firing on all cylinders and adjust your sessions accordingly so that you are perhaps working out at a lower intensity than your norm.
This is one of the benefits of weight training as you can lower your reps or weights and increase the rest period so that you can recover and let your heart rate settle. Other good alternatives if you’re not feeling 100% would be restorative yoga or gentle cycling. A trip to the sauna or steam room might really help with any nasal congestion and give you some relief from these tiresome symptoms.
If the illness is below your throat, for example, if you have a chesty cough or shortness of breath - then the general advice is not to train and let yourself recover. If you exercise with these types of symptoms you could feel worse and actually delay the recovery. Symptoms such as fever, dizziness or pain would definitely indicate to steer clear and get yourself better before undertaking any type of exercise.
If you have a nasty stomach bug you should avoid exercising until at least 48 hours after symptoms have resolved so that you don’t spread it around – stomach bugs can be so contagious and just generally not very nice – get yourself tucked up in bed until you feel better.
Remember that when you are ill you are spreading germs so rocking up at the gym with loads of tissues or obvious signs of illness isn’t going to win you any friends! Always wipe down your equipment with the antibacterial spray that will be on offer, and wash your hands properly when you finish your gym session. Making this a habit will help protect you against picking up nasty germs.
No one knows you better than you know yourself, so be honest with yourself and listen to your body - don’t push yourself and if you aren’t feeling up to a gym session or working out then try and enjoy your rest, preserve energy and take the time to heal and prioritise your recovery. If you really wanted to do something then you could do some light mobility or stretching work in a controlled and gentle manner.
When you do feel well enough make sure you take it steady until you feel back to normal. Give yourself plenty of time to recover, more so than usual.
Focusing on nutrition is key when you’re ill and giving your body the best nutrients for getting better is vital. Try to get lots of antioxidants and vitamin C and it’s really important to drink lots of water so that you can stay hydrated. You could also try things like ginger, garlic, lemon, turmeric and chilli. It's not just important when you are actually ill though - good nutrition provides your body with all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that you need to help function at your best and boost your immune system, so consuming a regularly healthy balanced diet should help you ward off unwanted illness.
It goes without saying but please do make sure you see a GP or health professional if you are concerned with any areas of your health, or feel like you need advice if you are feeling ill.