Should You Train When You Are Sick?

Should you train when you are sick? We have the answer.

By Coach Hunter Bennett

Should I workout when I’m sick?

Note: I am not talking about exercising with COVID here — if you do happen to have COVID-like symptoms, obviously get yourself tested and stay home, ya dummy…

This is an extremely common question — and one that (unfortunately) does not have a clear answer.

Should You Train When You Are Sick?

There is nothing worse than when you get into a solid routine, start seeing some progress, and then BOOM, you get sick.

Whether it be a head cold, a runny nose, or a mild cough, it doesn’t matter.

They all suck.

But should you stop working out, or should you push through?

Well fortunately, there is a rule for that. 

The “Above The Neck” Rule

What is the above the neck rule?

This simple rule suggests that if you are only experiencing symptoms above your neck, then you can probably exercise. So if you have a head cold, a stuffy nose, or a mild earache, you are good to go.

However, if your symptoms go below the neck (think of things like a deep chest cough, a fever, vomiting, or diarrhoea) then you should probably give it a miss.

See, simple.

When Should You Stop Training If You Are Sick?

The above the neck rule offers an easy way of telling whether you should be OK to exercise or not — but even if your symptoms are strictly above the neck, there are times when you may want to stop exercising.

These include:

  • If you are feeling lethargic or have no energy, or
  • You start exercising and your symptoms worsen

When you’re sick, your body is working hard to get better. As a result, it needs to use extra energy to help your immune system.

With this in mind, if you are exercising too hard, your ability to heal can become impaired — and if you fall into one of the above categories, this is likely what’s happening.

Won’t I Lose My Gains?

But what about my gains, brah?

One of the reasons people want to keep training when they are sick is because they don’t want to regress.

Honestly, I get it. 

You have spent all this time working out, and now it is all gonna go down the drain, right?

Well, not really.

In fact, it is highly unlikely.

Evidence suggests that even if you cease training completely, you wont start losing muscle or strength until around your third week. Additionally, you probably won’t lose any endurance or aerobic fitness until after week two of no exercise.

And this is if you stop exercising completely.

I mean, even if you can even get in one half-assed training session per week, you will retain a lot more strength and fitness than you might think. This means on a day you are feeling good, you can go in for a quick session and keep the gains coming in.

Should You Train When You Are Sick: Key Points

If your symptoms sit above your neck, you should be fine to exercise — although you might want to take it easy so you don’t slow recovery.

On the other hand, if your symptoms sneak below your neck, stay home.

And no, you won’t lose all your gains. In fact, you wont start seeing any marked reductions in strength, muscle mass, or fitness until about week 3 of no training.

AKA you will be fine.


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