Everyone gets sick, it’s a fact of life, and is even more likely in winter. When you do become ill it unfortunately makes performing your normal activities pretty difficult. This becomes even more apparent in high intensity workouts. I believe firmly that any workout is better than no workout so I’m going to give you some tips on what to do and what not to do when you are feeling under the weather so that you can still make progress towards your goals.
1. Don’t expect your best
When you aren’t feeling well don’t head to the gym expecting to perform to your best levels. You certainly shouldn’t expect to set a personal best one rep max, so there’s no point heading into the gym with this attitude, as it will only leave you dissapointed and frustrated. This does not necessarily give you the license to give low effort and justify it. If you find yourself thinking, “well I’m sick so that’s ok” a lot then it might be time to push a bit more.
But be realistic with yourself. If you get to the gym and you find that by working out you are just making yourself feel worse, than there’s no shame in cutting your workout short. If you really are struggling the best thing to do is recover and come back stronger.
2. Don’t decide from your bed
When you wake up and lay there thinking about going to train it is very easy to decide against it. When you first wake up you are usually more congested. You haven’t had any supplements, medication, food or water for about 8 hours, so you really are at your worst. You need to get up and refuel on these things then make your decision. Nine times out of ten you will feel much better and may decide you can go sweat out the rest of your ill feelings at the gym.
Of course, if you wake up and have done all these things and still are feeling very unwell don’t be stupid and drag yourself to the gym. This will only be detrimental to your recovery and will do nothing for your long term training goals.
3. Modify your workout at the beginning
Before starting your workout decide what you are going to modify. If you usually do 5 sets you can make it 4, if you usually struggle with a certain exercise, you can leave that one out. The key is doing this at the beginning. Once you start working out it is very easy to say to yourself, “well I’m sick so I’ll not do this set and I’ll miss this altogether”. Set yourself a realistic plan and go after it. Most of the time you will feel better after pushing yourself. If you don’t then head back to bed and rest..
4. Realize that sometimes it isn’t a good idea
As I said at the beginning I personally think most of the time you can train while you are sick although there are times when you should not. It is important to recognize when you will do yourself more harm than good.
If you are feeling faint or dizzy, then you must realize that this isn’t a safe state for you to be in if you’re at the gym. If you are coughing uncontrollably just from moving around your home then you won’t be able to get through a workout at the gym, so rest up, get better and let your body recover. If you are highly contagious you need to think about other gym users as well. Coughing and spluttering in the weights area isn’t something you would want to endure if you were working out, so don’t be that guy. Recover and get back at it when you can.
It is also important to remember there is no shame in ending your gym session early if you’re feeling unwell. By ignoring your body and pushing yourself even when you don’t feel well will only make you feel worse. Listen to your body and act accordingly.
5. Change it up
The most disheartening thing about not being 100% is that you can’t do what you normally do. So instead of only managing 6 reps with weight you can usually do for 12 change up your gym session. If you do something you don’t normally do like pre exhaustive training, pause reps, cardio or a time frame training circuit, you then have no comparison and therefore you won’t be disappointed with your results.
Take Home Message
I hope these tips help you get through the struggle the next time you are feeling sick. The main thing is to get back to full health as soon as possible so you can train at your optimum level and achieve optimum results.
✓ You need to keep hydrated, good hydration is the most important factor in allowing your body to function at a high level.
✓ You need to eat, don’t let your energy levels or metabolism drop just because you aren’t feeling good, just as food feeds your muscles so they can recover and grow it also feeds your body so it can recover from illness.
✓ Correct supplementation can aid in the recovery process as well as the immunity in the first place. A body that is functioning at a high level with a strong immune system is less likely to get sick in the first place
The most important thing is be honest with yourself. Ask yourself, am I going to make things worse by going to the gym? If you think the answer is probably yes then you’re better off resting, eating well, conserving your energy and letting your body recover. There is nothing worse than going to the gym, pushing yourself and feeling worse, as this will only hinder your recovery and stop you training for a longer period of time.