Feedback Friday: How do you adjust training while fighting a cold/illness?

In this week’s podcast episode the team discussed how to train (or not) while battling a cold/illness. I recently posted a blog on what I monitor or adjust while training during a cold/illness, and I also shared some of the daily choices I make to help support athlete immunity.

What do you monitor or change with training if you are battling a cold/illness?

Here are some areas that I continuously monitor during a cold or illness:

Nutrition/Supplementation: I will pay close attention to nutrition during a cold or illness. I increase citrus and berry consumption. I will decrease the consumption of wheat. I avoid excess sugar and sodium. I typically increase ascorbic acid to (5,000-10,000mg per day) and lung/sinus/bronchial support (2-3 tablets, three times per day).

Hydration: Got water? Lots of it? Drink up. Sure, it increases the trips to the bathroom, but it also helps support the body and recovery.

Heart Rate: I will keep a close eye on my heart rate during training and while resting. If unusually high, greater than 10 bpm of typical, I will reduce the intensity or duration of my training sessions.

Fever: No training. It is not worth the risk.

Sinus/Chest Congestion: In general, I have found that continued training, even if reduced, can help to clear and move sinus and chest congestion. I will remain indoor on a trainer (for bike) or treadmill (for runs) if the outside air temperature is below 50°F/10°C. If the congestion does not improve, I will reduce or stop training depending on the severity.

Sauna: We love our infrared sauna, especially during the winter months. The increased heat warms the body, sinuses, and lungs helping to improve circulation, recovery, and healing.

Rest: Should this be at the top of the list? Probably. It’s easy to say that six-or-seven hours of sleep is enough. We’re all different, but eight or more, minimum, is best when battling a cold.


So, having had a clear start to the year, I’m currently enjoying my first cold of 2019. It’s been mercifully mild, and I’ve dealt with it by taking a full week off. I’m starting my on-ramp this week to get back into it and have a couple of observations/thoughts which are playing on my mind.

1: I always thought the rule of thumb for a cold was 3/3/3 - 3 days getting it, 3 days being snotty and 3 days recovering. Seems to me that’s not really true at all…the last phase can drag and drag for me, sometimes up to 2 weeks of being less than 100%.
2: Why is it that the hardest/least expected part of a cold is the muscle fatigue and weakness? I’m pretty well clear of symptoms up top, but my legs feel like they’ve been pulverised and are achy.

For me a cold can derail a fortnight or more easily. So frustrating!

I’m in week 4 of a cold. Like yours, it hasn’t been intense except for the first two days. At the end of the second week, I had the chance to go for a fun mtb ride on a 45 degree day. I had fun, but it definitely set me back considerably. I got back to structured training, doing some minus variants, at about week 3. It’s so frustrating, and I’ve never had a cold last anywhere near this long. At this point, training isn’t hard, but I’m coughing through the night(my wife loves this), and I just want it to be over!

To answer your question…
I go by my energy level more than anything. Stuffy/sneezy I like to exercise indoors, in the belief that it helps clear me out. A lot of chest congestion, I wait it out. A fever, no way!

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I was surprised by this, too. But maybe we shouldn’t be. Illness impairs recovery - I think it’s because the same proteins are used by the immune system that we want to rebuild our muscle tissue. (That’s also why it’s so easy to catch a cold after a hard/long race, when proteins go into recovery).

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