T Nation

Training While Sick


#1

I'm currently sick, and in general have been getting so a lot lately.

In the past I always trained sick, to the extent that I would as if I were healthy, or as close as I can come.

In experience, I've learned a lion's heart gets you nowhere with a bull's head.

I've learned to stop working out completely when I get sick, whether it's a small cold or an all out flu.

Now I know a lot of you out there will go against this, and train when sick, or at least claim if it's something small then it's worth training for anyways.

But I feel this is a different matter, for I'm not trying to achieve the best gains that I can make for myself temporarily, by -keeping- myself in the best shape possible. I'm 20 years old, im looking to be the best I can long term. I'm currently str, power, and size focused in my training, and i wonder if one can make such gains while ill.

I always looked at it such as this: If your weaker when your sick than you are healthy, then there's no way your gonna break your muscles down and build back up stronger.

Intelligent answers please, not just "I do it so it's ok." Even if your unsure, I appreciate some reasoning behind it.


#2

Viral or bacterial infection is a stress on your body and you need rest to recover. Your body can not be as efficient as possible recovering from training while they are also recovering from illness.

I always worry about endocarditis or any other opportunistic infection if I wear myself down.


#3

I do it so it’s ok.

I honestly seem to have greater physical strength when I’m a bit sick.

No I don’t go if I’m fucking deathly ill, but that hasn’t happened in years.

A cold/congestion/other pussy shit will simply not keep me out of the gym.


#4

If I’m sick enough to miss work I dont train.
I will usually go training and see how it feels, sometimes I’ll pack it in as I can tell its a waste of time; others I can get a reasonable workout, but just abbreviate it and cut any secondary stuff.
On the whole though, I dont do ill.


#5

To elaborate on what I was asking…

I am not worried about the physical stress it imposes on me. I’m not worried about feeling sick or how hard it is.

At the same time I aint worried about looking like a “pussy” I feel I’ve proven myself in the weightroom, and it’s a matter more for what’s right, not what feels right.

It’s not about testing my manhood, it’s about making the best gains I can.

I will take the sickness and the pain if it is best for my body, my question is, is it the best thing for my body?

And btw Danjo your answer is very appreciated. All of you for that matter.

absolute, i question the physical authority you put into your training if your stronger when sick.


#6

i have a really shitty immune system, i blame my parents for having me next to a chemical reactor, then making me grow up around smokers my whole life. but when i lift, like most of the people here, i push myself to the fuckin max everytime i go. its a waste not to. thus, if i do this when i feel the slightest cold coming on, i end up sick as a fucking dog the next day as opposed to just staying home, doping up on nyquil and letting my body get rid of it. i would honestly rather take a day or two off to fight it off than push myself and get something 10x worse… but my ego tends to get in the way every damn time :smiley:


#7

Training while sick makes me sicker


#8

A common cold, I train. A fever or puking, I dont.


#9

Unless you are a pro bodybuilder and make enough money out of it that it is your FIRST job and everythign else ABSOLUTELY ALWAYS come second, you are going to be training/recovering suboptimally, at least occasionally.

Do you train on days you didn’t eat enough? On days you didn’t sleep well the night before? On days where you’re already plenty tired from working too long, physical or not? Do you train when injured?

Of course. Is it optimal? Of course not. But if we only trained on optimal days, we’d train so little that that would be suboptimal.

Needless to say, the further you are into the realm of the stress-starvation (i.e. catabolic) side of things, the less intensely you should train, if at all.

There have been a couple of studies out there showing no impact from training lightly to moderately when you’re sick.

There aren’t good delineations of when and when not to train though.

My personal rule of thumb is not to train when I’m puking or have severe diarrhea (dehydration and nutrition issues), when you have body aches (a high cortisol/high inflammation state), or when the cough is so bad that it’s exacerbated extremely by lifting.

A fever with no body aches won’t stop me. Neither will a cough (even a bad one) that isn’t made too much worse by lifting.

Depending on the length of illness, training SOME is probably better than not training. Remember, being sick is a catabolic stimulus. You want to counter this somehow. And SOME form of weight training is a good way. Even if its super-light 25 reppers just to get a good pump and some blood flow.

I was sick for four straight weeks back when I was on my pediatrics clerkship in medical school. Three successive illnesses. I somehow managed not to lose more than 3 or 4 lbs. I’m convinced that if I HADN’T made a point of training it would’ve been much closer to 15lbs. At one point I was so dehydrated that I didn’t pee for over a day (which is when a normal person who wasn’t an arrogant medical person would’ve gone in to be hospitalized). With that kind of severity, I’m pretty sure light to moderate training during that month was the key factor.


#10

[quote]Nikhil Rao wrote:
Remember, being sick is a catabolic stimulus. You want to counter this somehow. [/quote]

This is a good simple point, thanks.

I was told a while ago that training of any kind while sick is akin to what a fever does–getting your body temperature up and burning out the virus. I’m not sure if that is true or not. The same coach told me to stop eating peanut butter. (Blasphemy! :-))


#11

it would be better to think aobut how often your getting sick, than training while going through a particular sickness. Even though every sickness is different.

If your getting sick often, your immune system is obviously weak, at 20 years old you should not have a weak immune system. If it’s from binge drinking then fine, but if not then you need some time off to analyze your training nutrtion and recovery.

We can’t tell you whether it’s better to train while sick or not, although the general advice is something above the neck your good to go. I’m a little different when I’m sick, after all if you extend how long your sick eventually you’ll get weaker. If I can take a day off and come in tomorrow I can just train harder. At the end of the day how much is ONE day going to ruin your progress.

Most people’s goals even short term are not destroyed by missing a day. Missing a day has more of a psychological effect than physiologic.

It is possible to be stronger while sick, just as many athletes perform better when sick. 1) drugs that inhibit pain, 2) mental focus to overcome the sickness both can make you stronger.


#12

I’ve always gone by the rule if its all in my head (quite literally) go for it. Anywhere below that, don’t. I find too, that if its below that, like in my chest or stomach, I either am miserable the whole time, or am weak as hell.

There have been times where I’ve had to push through the sickness due to team obligations. But now, rest, drink lots of liquids and eat. My worst thing when i’m sick is I don’t eat, so I lose five to six pounds of legitimate weight if I get really sick.


#13

Depends on how sick you are and in what way. Obviously you know the rule of thumb is rest to recover when your sick. I know that rule too, and I just guage what to do based on how sick I am and in what way.

In my case, I’m an obsessive son of a bitch and I hate breaking training for anything. If I do that my brain gets sick and that’s a lot worse than anything else.

I worked so hard just to get to the point that I could do this. Years of shit machines and physical therapy all leading up to merely even being able to lift wieghts effectively. just to do things so many others take for granted. No sniffle is going to stop me.
BUT I should add that if I dragged myself down to the gym while sick, and then observed that I was too weakened to perform optimally then I would certianly lower the wight or just do some cardio and call it a night.


#14

I get sick very very infrequently, so I train through sickness.

I see no reason to not train if you can cope with it. Strength sports operate largely upon the mechanism of learning a skill (especially if you’re an olympic lifter) more so than actual muscle mass. So your concern with “breaking down and building muscle” should be second to the concern of losing practice in a certain skill set.

Tuning in my snatch technique and losing a bit of muscle due to sickness is better than sitting at home and not practicing and keeping whatever small amount of muscle I can save.

Clearly you have to draw the line somewhere, if you’re hacking up a lung or you’re so sick you’re struggling to put up 60%, your body is telling you to rest.

But it depends largely on your goals. If you’re looking to compete in a strength sport, go to practice, don’t waste time. If you’re just a recreational guy looking for general size and strength, I’d just rest, since your concerns would be different from that of a competitive athlete.