T Nation

Training Through the Flu


One flaw to the human condition is the occasional tendency to get sick. For athletes, the challenge is to continue training hard without succumbing to this pitfall. Hardcore training clearly taxes the immune system and CNS. However, the body recovers and builds itself back up stronger as an adaptation. But, what about when it is already trying to combat the flu?

How do some people continue to train despite catching colds and/or the flu?

I currently see the fallowing factors having an affect:
-Level of conditioning before getting sick
-Quality of nutrient intake
-The power of one�??s will
-What particular ailment they acquire, and its severity
-Type of training they are performing

**So what sets these people apart from the rest of the population? Is their WILL so strong that they have truly turned the body into a vehicle that just WON�??T BREAK DOWN?!! (The body is a �??vehicle for the mind�??) Are they simply able to WILL THEMSELVES to stay healthy?

Perhaps there is some validity in being able to JUST SAY FUCK IT!!

How much of health is based on nutrition and rest? How much of it is a factor of one�??s ability to push through inner-barriers?

Is there a commonality between the following situations:
-blasting through a training plateau
-exploding out of a deep squat for a new PR
-demolishing an infection once it takes root in your body?

What strategies do you utilize to combat the problem?
-Do you reduce your reps per set? (What if your powerlifting)
-Do you reduce your total sets?
-Do you reduce volume by simply handling less weight?
-Is reducing training volume a good technique for reducing additional stress on the CNS and immune system?

-Do you back off by take a week off (What if you have a competition coming up?)
-Do you back off by terminating each set further away from failure?

Is there a way to train specifically for recovery from the flu? There are ways to boost muscle and tendon recovery from individual training sessions; is recovery from the flu some how parallel?

What are the views of my fellow T-memberz? What experiences have ya�??ll had with training through sickness?

What would Leonitus Do??


Are you talking about the flu or just getting a cold. I can barely eat when I have the flu. Forget training. If it is just a cold, I find that a workout tends to help me recover better. It probably has something to do with getting the blood flowing. In past, I have noticed that a little physical activity reduces my congestion and kills the I want to die feeling.

As a powerlifter, I wouldn't do any max effort work or speed work if I was sick as I believe it is too taxing the CNS, which negatively affects your immune system. Instead, I would probably just have a repetition/recovery day. Something like 4 sets of 6-8 with a weight I know that I could probably get 10-12 reps.

I would probably also reduce the load on all my accessory stuff. I might jog or do some light cardio for 10-20 mins. You don't want to work too hard because it might prolong the cold. I doubt training hard when sick would productive anyway because your body is focused on getting better not building muscle.

I never had a cold that lasted more then a few days, so it shouldn't interfere with training that much anyway. Just make sure you eat, drink a lot of fluids and get a lot of rest.


Good topic.

I personally train until I feel the cold/sickness is at its strongest stage, then I usually take a couple of days off and return to the gym when the symtpoms begin to diminish. Sometimes when I feel a cold coming on I'll go extra hard in the gym then hit the steam room, sauna or hot tub and that knocks whatever I have out my system.

I've tried training when I was really feeling sick and I wound up having to take more time off than usual to recover from that particular cold, so I'd say for me, training when I'm really sick isn't a good idea.


Funny topic cuz i was just talking about this today because i am currently sick. I can't remember the last time ive gotten the flu as bad as id get it before i started training more consistently.
But as long as im good enough get out of bed i go to the gym. I have never noticed a decrease in recovery time and personally feel that i often times recover faster after exercises.

I should note that i also very rarely take cold medicine when im sick anymore (as cold medicine treates symptoms not the underlying cause and i ve heard that while cold medicine can make u feel better it actually prolongs the illness due to the fact that ur those symptoms that u are inhibiting help to flush the infection out of ur system) and eat signficantly more calories when im sick to compensate for the increased caloric demands of the immune system


Colds mean I don't do cardio for a few days. Problem is that cardio puts your lungs etc. under a lot of strain and can cause the sniffles to get seriously out of hand. I also like 12 hour sudafeds as needed. I take a couple of days off at onset, keep my workout ratcheted down a notch for a few days. This gets me over the 5 day hump when it's worst with little training down time.

Now the flu is another topic. I don't train thru the flu. Period. The reason for this is that, unlike human rhinovirus (which eats your sinuses) influenza eats anything it can get to. Truly scary is the newer avian virus which has a high mortality rate and is consistently found in brain tissue.

Usually people get the flu in their lungs or intestines, but there have been cases of it migrating to other body parts. One case reported in the media several years back was from a fellow who came down with it, got so sick he went to the emergency room, passed out (toxic shock syndrome?) and slipped into a coma. While he was out the flu attacked his limbs resulting in multiple amputation. Can't find the original story, but here is one to read:


There is a reason that an influenza epidemic makes doctors break out in a cold sweat. Anybody remember 1918?

Bottom line, colds are a nuisance. Don't 'f with the flu.
-- jj


Thanks for the tips fellas. I've been finding doing light cardio has helped. Turning the intensity down a couple notches has helped as well.