Should You Exercise With A Cold?

I am pretty lucky. Over the past few years, I have rarely been sick. This could be due to slowly learning (very very slowly) to back off when I start to feel something coming on, or it could be the magic potion I take four sips of at 6:28am everyday. Since there is no such magic potion, it must be the former...

Let's be clear: just because I eat and train a certain way, and the fact I don’t get sick often are two completely different things. I’m sure exercise and nutrition play an important role, but they aren’t everything. Be wary of anyone who claims to reverse illness or disease with nutrition exclusively (and maybe check for qualifications - although these might be hard to find).


It's all kinds of cold out there.

It is starting to properly get cold outside, which means everyone has the sniffles or is coughing up a lung. You can run, but you can’t hide. Eventually the winter blues will catch up with you and you to will have a nose that runs quicker than Usain Bolt.


So what do you do about training when you have a cold?

My first recommendation would be to go and see your GP to get a professional opinion on any medical condition, as self-diagnosis is never a good idea. However, before (or maybe after) I get to that stage, here are the two questions I like to ask myself when determining whether to train or not if I have a cold.


One: is training impacting your cold?

The last thing you want is for training to make your condition worse, which is only going to lead to more time off.

Generally there are two ways to assess this:

  • Is the training making you feel worse during or after a session?
  • You feel OK during and after the session, but has the cold been hanging around for a few weeks?

If it is a yes to either scenario, it is best to take some time off and recover.

Another consideration while is to think about where you are spending time while you have a decreased immune response. A crowded gym is not the best environment to be spending too much time, especially if you are not making any gains...


Two: is your cold impacting training?

Can you not run as fast or as far as usual because of a blocked nose? Did the contents of your nose spread over the gym as you forcefully exhaled after a squat?

It happens… but we should not let it!

If the quality of your training is being limited by a cold, it is best to take some time off to recover. If you can’t train with quality, there is little to no chance of making progress.

If you cannot perform at normal intensity, whether that be in terms of strength, speed, endurance or skill, take a few days off to recover. Suboptimal training will not lead to progression, so don't waste your time and energy trying to battle on. Get better and then you can get better!

What i do.

Email subscribers will be receiving my favourite nutrition tips while resting up with a cold. So make friends with an email subscriber or sign up below.

Why these are important questions?

When your body is preoccupied with an immune response, there is unfortunately little consideration for building new muscle tissue, strength and #gainz. Besides, three days off and then being back at full strength is a lot better than three weeks of suboptimal training because you can’t kick a cold. 

So take a few days off and you will be OK!

Spend some time with Franc Underwood and the couch while you recover.

Spend some time with Franc Underwood and the couch while you recover.

This might sound like a very conservative approach, but in my opinion it is the smart way to proceed. The three weeks of training at 65% without making progress is much worse than taking a few days off and coming back at 100%.

It is tough to take time off, especially when it's not a scheduled rest. However, sometimes you need to look after your body in the short term to make progress in the long term. So make progress a priority and get yourself right!