Sitting here at my desk I have a sore throat and a headache, my body is begging for rest but my mind is pushing to go running or climbing, I’m a mess. So should I go training? Maybe keep it easy? Maybe go home and rest till I feel better?
What is a cold and how will it effect my training?
I took the following cold definition from George L. Kirkpatrick, MD, University of South Alabama.
“An acute epidemic respiratory disease characterized by mild coryzal symptoms of rhinorrhea, nasal obstruction, and sneezing. The nasal discharge is usually copious and thin during the first 2 days of illness, then it generally becomes more viscous and purulent.22 The disease is self-limited. Symptoms may persist for 2 days to more than 14 days; however, the cold may abort after only 1 day. Fever, cough, sore throat, or lacrimation may or may not be present. The common cold is of itself harmless, but bacterial invasion frequently follows the initial infection. It is these secondary invaders that may produce disorders of serious consequence.”
So we now know what a cold is, how will it effect your training and performance? Once you get infected your heart rate and breathing will increase. this will cause dehydration and raised temperature that will effect the performance of your muscles. Fever will also plays a huge part in your performance and raised temperature and fluid loss will lead to more dehydration. Your lung function may be compromised by blocked nose or mucus in the lower bronchi that will restrict breathing. Your body uses oxygen therefore any loss in intake will cause a reduction in performance!
Will a rest destroy all my hard work?
Dependant on the timing of your illness and the length of rest taken the results can be very mixed. Taking a rest after a prolonged training regime can increase performance and reduce the chances of over training. For most of us the issue is we don’t want to lose the gains we have made over months of training. This is what usually drives us outside running or climbing during illness.
Studies have shown that a person who has trained for only 3 months and takes a 3 month rest will see a possible 100% loss in any gains. A person who has a good fitness base and trains for over 1 year will typically see a reduction of 50% over 3 months rest. Most cases of infection only last up to 14 days so you can expect the losses to be substantially less than the 50%
Will training increase my illness time?
High intensity training has also been proven to lower the immune system so any workouts during sickness can only be counter intuitive and will increase the time required to recover. Studies have also shown that high intensity workouts can also worsen the effects of a cold dependant on where its symptoms lie (Throat lungs etc) this is simply due to the lowered immune system and dehydration effects! Also its worth remembering that if the immune system is lowered after recovery then you are more susceptible for another round of illness!
Still not sure?
So ask yourself the question. Will I make any substantial gains by pushing myself during illness ? Or would it be better for my body to rest and return to my regime when in better condition ? That decision is a personal one that can only be made by you. My personal feeling is that rest is a great way to recover motivation and drive. Reductions in performance will be short lived and small in effect. Returning to normal performance will be quicker when the body is functioning well.
Eating a clean diet alongside exercise is the best way to increase your immune systems ability to defend against virus and bacteria. Studies have shown that Vitamin C supplements can boost the immune system for athletes and reduce recovery times but results are very mixed. More reading can be found on the link below.