Approaching Training After Being Sick

It’s that time of year when you start seeing and hearing more sniffles, coughs and sneezes. Head colds, sinus infections, the flu…this is their time to shine usually and we’ve seen it within our client roster lately. So how do you approach your training when sick? A question we get asked often AND a protocol we work through frequently with our clients, as each case is different.


 

WHEN can I train again?


This is usually the first question that we get and one that has different answers based off of 1) how serious and long-lasting the illness was and 2) your nutrition intake. Let’s dive in a bit deeper into the considerations to make and the checklist to walk through BEFORE stepping back into the gym…

  • You are no longer contagious

  • You aren’t experiencing any breathing issues (shortness of breath or higher than normal breathing rate when doing daily activities)

  • You have gotten at least 7 hours of sleep the night before (bonus if it’s been consecutive nights in a row)

  • Your appetite has returned to normal and you aren’t under-consuming calories

  • While all of these are important, this last point is one we want to really highlight, and here’s why:

Calories = Recovery

Eating enough is vital to training and even more so when your immune system is or has been compromised. Therefore, we suggest that our clients hold off on training until they’ve been able to consume 85-90% of their typical daily calorie intake over a 24-hour period.


WHAT are some considerations I should take into account?


Diving back into training after being sick likely won’t look the same as if you were going into another week of training (being healthy) and here are some things we, as coaches, ensure our clients take into consideration that first week back into training…


  • Scale fluctuations are likely to happen. Being sick produces inflammation in the body; this is simply a by-product of the immune system fighting whatever is present. Inflammation alone can cause scale fluctuations, but also take into consideration that more convenient foods were likely being relied on – things like packaged/processed foods and soup. These will have higher sodium content and can impact water retention.


  • Digestive changes and feedback. When sick, there are commonly medications taken whether that be OTC (over the counter) or even prescribed, such as an antibiotic or steroid. Both can impact digestion causing dehydration, constipation, bloating and even diarrhea. Antibiotics can disrupt the healthy bacteria within the gut and may need a probiotic to help restore that healthy bacterium.


  • Possible changes to both your nutrition and training protocols. Nutrition may need to be adjusted to help “reverse” calories back up to normal intake range if appetite and intake saw a significant decrease for a longer period. As for training, it is best to slowly ease back into training with specific RPE/RIR goals that are lower than normal, increase rest period times, and possibly even reduce the number of training days the first week to ensure that recovery and performance aren’t sacrificed.


 

Next time you find yourself under the weather and needing to take a few days (or week) off of the gym, be sure to consider when is best to go back and what you can expect during your first week back.


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