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Is It OK to Workout if You Have the Flu or a Cold?

By Karen Buxton - UltraFit.com

Like it or not, the cold and flu season is upon us, and if you have not already been hit with the dreaded crud, you may be next in line.

Your training has been going along well, you have built a solid base and then it happens — you wake up one morning with a scratchy throat, headache, cough and feeling like you have been hit by a truck. Is it a cold, the flu?

You have a hard workout planned, and you don’t want to fall behind on with your training ... so, what do you do?

First, know that it is always better to skip a workout when you are not feeling well, than it is to tough it out and risk getting worse. If your symptoms are above the neck — stuffy nose (clear discharge) or a scratchy throat (no fever) — it is OK to complete a short workout at a low intensity.

If you start your workout and feel fine, keep going at the reduced intensity. (Don’t be tempted to go harder.) If you begin the workout and things aren’t going well, turn around, head home and call it a day.

If your symptoms are worse than the typical cold indicators — such as chest congestion, fever, chills, muscle aches and malaise — you should not attempt your workout. These are signs of an infection or the flu virus, and exercising only makes you worse and delays recovery.

Complete rest should be on your schedule, until these symptoms have gone. Once you are feeling "normal," it is suggested that for every day of the illness, you complete two days of low-intensity training. This may mean that you have to adjust your schedule, going back to the base-building phase for a while.

Remember that exercising with an infection or flu does not benefit your training. It may lead to more serious illnesses, setting you back even more and possibly ending your season altogether. Train smart, listen to your body and rest when needed. You’ll be back on track before you know it.

Karen Buxton coaches triathletes, duathletes, cyclists and runners and can be reached at kbuxton@ultrafit.com.


Click here for the Centers For Disease Control site Flu Facts for Everyone

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