To train or not to train when sick…that is the question

With cold and flu season on top of us it seems like the perfect time to discuss the ‘guidelines’ around training when sick. Many don’t want to miss out on a day of training, however when you get knocked around by a cold or sniffle it is good to know what you can or cannot do.

person with a coldAs I write this I am coughing and spluttering and have taken the day off seeing clients as a results of being sick (just one of the risks of the job – being exposed to loads of germs). It’s somewhat my fault thought as just last week I was spouting about how I ‘never get colds’, and that my immune system is ‘ah.mah.zing’. Clearly, the universe thought I needed a lesson.

In all seriousness though at the first signs of sniffles or a sore throat I get the inevitable question from my clients “am I ok to come to training?”

Obviously, I cannot diagnose anyone’s symptoms however there are a couple of guidelines that I stick to which will help determine whether its worth your time or not.


1. If the symptoms present above the neck (i.e the average annoying head cold), then it is ok to perform light to moderate exercise

Normally in this situation the signs and symptoms may be a runny nose, congestion, headache and watery eyes. If the rest of the body is feeling ok, and you still have some energy then there is no harm in heading to the gym for a light session. You may even choose to do something different such as pilates or yoga or even an easy walk. If you are having a session with your PT then inform them of how you are feeling, and the PT can tailor it accordingly – it may be a great opportunity to work on some core strength, or mobility.

Light Ex include:

Yoga, pilates, weight training at light loads, walks, core work, stretching, mobility and technique work.

Course of Action:

Keep hydrated, possibly take some medications/supplements, get plenty of sleep and feed your body with nurturing foods. Keep training light until your symptoms have subsided (a normal cold should only stick around for 3-7 days)

2. If the symptoms present below the neck then avoid training.

If you have a cough, sore throat, sore chest, bronchiole issues, body aches, fever and fatigue then it is wise not to train. In this scenario the body will need all of its energy to fight whatever bacterial or viral infection you have, and so the best way to support your immune system is by resting and feeding the body wholesome foods.

Course of Action:

Listen to your body and give it what it needs! Sometimes a day in bed is just what is needed so if it comes to that then take the time to do so. Overdose on plenty of water, vegetables, bone broths and soups to help the immune system. When you feel like you have enough energy to train again take the time to ease back into it.

If you choose to continue to train throughout your sickness you are risking making the illness worse, which will only prolong the symptoms. As I’ve already mentioned the best thing to do is to listen to your body and know when to pull back.

By not listening to your body, and pushing through you are being what I call a fitness martyr. You are not going to earn extra brownie points for training whilst sick, nor is the training going to be overly beneficial. Additionally, if you decide to continue going to the gym whilst sick you are potentially spreading your germs to others, and that’s not cool!


Tips for getting rid of the cold (or in the words of Zoolander: the black lung)


  1. Prevention is always better than cure so make sure you stay diligent with looking after yourself
  2. At the first signs of sniffles start ingesting garlic, ginger, lemons (see below for an intense, but effective ‘flu shot’)
  3. Get plenty of rest; go to bed early and chill out
  4. Use tissues and empty the bin frequently
  5. Avoid caffeine and alcohol
  6. Drink plenty of fluids



Flu Shot
Recipe Type: Drink Remedy
Author: Mike Campbell inspired by the internet
This is a particularly intense drink, however I swear it works! At the first sign of a sniffle or sore throat I start chuggin this down.
  • Juice of 6 lemons
  • 2-3 small garlic cloves crushed
  • 2 cm cube of ginger grated
  • 1/2 small pineapple
  • 2 Tbspn manuka honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2-3 cups coconut water
  1. Place ingredients in a blender and blend til combined. Pour into glass containers and drink throughout the day.






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