Should I Train When I’m Ill?

Hey Everyone!

It’s 2017! Can you actually believe it? 2016 went so quickly – I hope you all had an amazing time over the festive season. Today’s post is pretty relevant to my life right now and that is on the topic of training when you’re feeling ill. Now I actually can’t count the number of times that I’ve googled if it’s okay to train when sick and I always get mixed results, so all I can really talk about is from my own experience and whether I train when I’m not feeling 100%.

So a little back story to this topic and my current ongoing illness. I was about 2 weeks into my powerlifting program, about 1 week out from Christmas when I started not feeling great. The thought of actually going to the gym just made me feel tired and I had no interest in being there. My last session of week 2 was a deadlift session and I went in all ready to lift 95KG for sets of 6×4. At this point in time I wasn’t feeling good. I knew that there was some sort of illness on the horizon but I was hoping to be able to stop it in it’s tracks. So I went to lift that 95KG deadlift off the ground and it wouldn’t even move. Keeping in mind that I was doing sets of 90KG for 8 reps the week before. I scaled back the weight to 80KG but by then the frustration had well and truly set in. My gym buddy came over to me and straight away said that I didn’t look so good so at that point we left. I went to work and ended up having to go home sick, at this point I couldn’t stop coughing, I had an awful headache, really bad aches and pains and zero appetite. I was really hoping that going to bed would help.

And I thought it had. I woke up the next day feeling not great but better than the day before, so with a lempsip and armed with some lucozade and water, myself and my friend headed up to Newbridge to do some last minute xmas shopping. As the day went on I just felt worse and worse. The drive back was horrible as I had to worst pains in my legs. We got home about 2 and I went straight to bed. I had to get up a few hours later to go get a spray tan, which was such an effort in itself. Glowing like an oompa-loompa I got home and went straight back to bed. The next day was Christmas eve and I had to drive home to see my family. Another awful drive due to the aches and pains. I essentially spent my Christmas on the couch but did, finally, get over the flu symptoms, apart from the cough. As soon as the shops opened on Stephens day I was out looking for cough medicine which did help but I knew that it wasn’t going to fix it completely. When I got back to Waterford I was all ready to go back to work, despite my cough, but after spending about half an hour standing in the bathroom coughing that morning I knew it was probably time to go to the doctor, who prescribed steroids and antibiotics for a chest infection. Wonderful!

At this point I hadn’t set foot in the gym since my disaster of a deadlift session just before Christmas. After being on the steroids and antibiotics for a few days I started to feel better. So much so that I decided to venture out to the gym. It didn’t go as bad as I had expected but I was lifting no where near where I should have been. Even doing 80KG deadlifts for sets of 6 were leaving me short of breath. Either way I finished the session. I finished up with my antibiotics the next day and continued to go to the gym for the next 2 days, still not lifting what I should have been lifting and still struggling with a cough and being short of breath. The rest of me felt fine, no aches or pains, expect from DOMS from the deadlifts, appetite was back and the headaches had stopped. It was just a chest infection that was slowing me down. Back to the doctor I went for another course of steroids and antibiotics, which I’m now currently in the middle of. I’ve also had to take another break from the gym to allow my body to fully recover – which is probably one of the most frustrating things in the world, but I know that if I don’t take this break I’m more than likely prolonging this chest infection and putting myself at risk of it getting worse.

I know a lot of people that still continue to train when they are ill and if that is something that you can do I really envy you. I think the most important thing to do is listen to your body. I used to always just battle through any illness or injury and in the long run it was never worth it. I’m hoping that taking a break now will mean that I get back to my previous form sooner rather than later. Unfortunately this illness has been a massive set back in my training for my next competition, which was supposed to be mid February. I’m no where near where I was hoping to be this far out so it’s starting to look like I won’t be able to compete and may have to aim for one in the summer instead.

A general rule of thumb for training when ill is that if the symptoms are isolated to above the neck, such as a cold, sore throat etc. then you are probably okay to make a good go at it. If your symptoms persist below the neck, such as coughing, body aches, fever etc. then it’s probably the time to take a break. Only you will know when it’s best to rest; listening to your own body is key to this!

I hope you found this blog post useful and for anyone out there that is currently struggling with an illness – I feel your pain! Hopefully, like me, you’ll be back to feeling 100% soon enough and be able to get back to your usual training routine. Leave me a comment below on your thoughts of training when ill – are you someone who powers through everything or are you someone who will take a break from training to try to recover as soon as possible?

Until next time,

Keep Lifitng,

Sophie x


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