by Alan Bragman
Question: Should I continue training, or cut out exercise, when I’m feeling under the weather? I have a bit of a sore throat and am slightly chesty but no temperature. Should I be exercising, and at what level? — Paul L.
Alan Bragman, D.C., Replies: Knowing when and if to train when you are sick can be a difficult decision. Do I rest and let my body recover, or go out for an easy ride to maintain fitness and sanity?
When I was younger, I generally tried to continue riding through most mild illness. Unfortunately, this frequently turned a mild sore throat or common cold into a sinus or bronchial infection that required antibiotics and extended rest.
Now, when I feel under the weather, I take a day or two off completely before I resume easy training, and this generally works.
Traditional thought is that if your symptoms are only above the shoulders (sinus drainage, scratchy throat, watery eyes or a head cold) and you had no fever or generalized body aches, then it was fine to do a short, easy aerobic workout.
However, if your symptoms are below the neck (coughing, discharge from the chest or sinuses, fever or generalized body aches), then forget about exercise and get as much rest as possible. The faster you get well, the faster you can resume training.
Remember the old saying, “It is better to be undertrained and healthy than overtrained and sick.” Pushing yourself to train with a fever, cold or flu can lead to life-threatening complications, such as viral myocarditis, pneumonia or Guillian-Barre syndrome.
Once you get back on the bike after an illness, take it easy for a while. It can take a full week to recover completely from even the common cold.
Alan Bragman is a chiropractor living in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a former Cat 3 cyclist and nationally ranked inline speed skater. He was on the medical advisory board at Bicycling magazine for 10 years and has written for other sports publications.