You’re an Idiot if You Workout When You’re Sick

Travis Attitude, Nutrition Leave a Comment

Some people may think you’re an idiot, but like I say about most things… It depends!

I hate being sick  when I’m training hard.  Muhammad Ali said it best… “I’m so mean I make medicine sick!”  Sometimes you gotta break out the “mean” and get it done!MuhammadAli-SoMean
Recently I came down with a cold and it got me thinking about how I adjust my training based on being sick. There are 5 things I consider when deciding whether to workout when sick, and what you should consider…

  1. Are You Being A Nanna? (a.k.a Making excuses)
  2. Are You Contagious?
  3. The Above/Below the Neck Rule
  4. How Should You Adjust Your Intensity/Weights/Etc?
  5. Nutrition & Recovery

Are You Being A Nanna?

That title pretty much says it all. Are you really really sick, or are you just making excuses? Time for an attitude check. (Yes, I have to check mine from time to time too even when I’m not sick). Now, I’m not saying to “tough it out”, I’m saying you need to take a hard look at your “nanna meter” and decide where you are on it.

Are You Contagious?

Remember the last time you were at work or the gym and “that person” showed up coughing and hacking and sneezing and they looked like death warmed over? Don’t be that person! Nobody likes that person!

Based on info from WebMD, if you have the flu, “you are most likely to pass it to someone else from 1 day before symptoms start and up to 7 days after symptoms develop.”

And for a cold, people are most contagious for the first few days. (Flu & Cold Symptoms)

The Above/Below the Neck Rule

This is a very common “rule”, but I like to use it as a “guideline”. Any symptoms above the neck (like a head cold) and you should be fine to workout (which still won’t be much fun). Any symptoms below the neck like severe aches, pains, stomach issues (vomiting), diarrhea, fever, etc, and it’s recommended that you rest. Plus, you really don’t want to be pushin weight around or running or anything and have an explosive “event” from either end. If you know what I mean.

How Should You Adjust Your Intensity/Weights/Etc?

This is going to be different for everyone. What I do while sick is go into my training session with the mindset of completing all my major (primary) lifts and dropping the weight and/or sets (but also paying attention to how I feel).

As a general guideline this is my starting point when adjusting my program…

  • Drop the weight about 25% (or more)
  • Cut sets and/or reps (possibly in half)
  • Drop some assistance/accessory lifts
  • If I’m feeling really cruddy, I sometimes skip primary lifts and only do lighter assistance/accessory lifts.

HOWEVER… Again, this is all based on knowing your body. For example, recently I had a head cold and it was volume squat day. The previous workout I did 345lbs for 8 sets of 3 reps. So I decided I would at least go up to around 260lbs and do at least 4 sets of 3 reps. BUT, I was feeling better than expected and decided to bump it up. So I did 315 x 5 x 3. I also did some light good mornings, and assisted glute ham raises.

Nutrition & Recovery

When you’re sick, it’s not the time to be in a calorie deficit or feel guilty for sleeping too much. (That last part might just be my problem. ha). You need to eat healthy and keep your energy up so your body can repair itself.

A good basic guideline…

  • Lots of water. (Notice I didn’t say “fluids”… I said water.)
  • Eat “real foods”. (You know, like the stuff your parents tried to get you to eat as a kid).
  • Vitamin C
  • Echinacea/Goldenseal
  • Garlic
  • Cayenne Pepper

What I typically do… (in addition to my normal multivitamin, etc…)

  • Lotso water. At least 4 liters/day.
  • Lotso veggies. (I like to pick all the different colored ones)
  • 10g Vitamin C spread out through the day
  • 4,000 iu Vitamin D
  • Echinacea/Goldenseal
  • Raw garlic (but sometimes it’s better to get the odorless pills. 😉 )
  • Lotso Cayenne pepper (or anything else with lotso capsaicin). The spicier the better I say.
  • And even though I hate ‘medicine’, when necessary, I will take some Vitamin I (Ibuprofen).  But I seriously have to be hurting to do that!!

NOTE: I’m not saying you should do what I do, because I’m not you, and I am not a doctor so this isn’t medical advice. (Layman’s note: Don’t be an idiot, talk to your doctor before trying any of this).

Muhammad Ali Image Credit: Success & Nothing Less