Should you work out when you’re sick?

I get this one from time to time – should I work out if I am sick? Like most things it depends on a few things. Here is my take on this subject…


The first thing to consider is if you are kind of sick or really sick. If you are really sick then you should probably just rest and recover. If you are just kind of sick then you may be able to train but there are a few more questions to ask yourself…

The next thing to consider is why you got sick. If it was just something that was going around and you happened to catch it then you might be able to keep training. If you randomly got sick because you have been running yourself ragged and are starting to overtrain then you should probably listen to your body and rest.

The next thing to think about is where is your cold? If it is a head cold then you are probably alright with continuing to train. You may need to adjust your workout a bit to reflect your current energy/ strength levels but this is pretty easy to accomplish by cutting back 1 or 2 sets for each exercise and perhaps backing down the weight a notch.

If it is a chest cold then you should probably cut back on the intensity level a lot. Remember that you only get better by recovering from your training and being sick will certainly take away from your recovery ability. If you fail to make adjustements and try to train as if you were not sick you might do more harm than good.

Training while sick can actually be a good idea as it can help you mentally and physically recover faster but only if you take these points into consideration. Like so many other aspects of training there are no “hard and fast” rules and instead require a little thought and introspection.

-James Wilson-

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  1. electric says:

    Here is another one!

    Did you prolong your illness/injury because you couldn’t resist training and riding prematurely?

    Reply • June 21 at 2:53 pm
  2. mark s says:

    My two cents as a family doc. Generally speaking, a patient that asks the question “Can I train when I am sick?” is a person who is hard on herself, both in exercise and in life in general. She achieves a lot but is susceptible to overtraining and burnout. The polar opposite patient is one who is too easy on herself; something like a simple cold will derail her healthy habits such as working out for an extended period of time, sometimes indefinitely. She will never know burnout nor will she ever challenge herself to be the best that she can be. Given the choice between these two patients, I would choose the former. It is a lot easier to convince someone to slow down than it is to urge them to speed up!

    Reply • June 21 at 9:28 pm

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James Wilson