Winter Is Coming…..

Yes I stole the title for this post, but who doesn’t love Game of Thrones? This post doesn’t have anything to do with dragons, wars, white walkers or my battle for a kingdom, but with something that people ask me about every winter: training while you are sick.

We are coming into winter and that means an influx of colds and flu. Ranging from a small case of the sniffles or a sore throat to full-blown body aches, headaches and fever, these can have a serious effect on your training regime. Most people I have spoken to (coworkers and gym members) seem to have the same opinion, if the infection you have is above the neck (ie sniffles, runny nose, sore throat) it is ok to train, whereas if it’s below the neck (fever and coughing up phlegm-gross) then you need to take time off.

The reasons behind the above thoughts is that if the infection is below the neck, it is closer to your heart and when you train the infection can spread to your heart. I can personally testify to this. A little over two years ago I picked up swine flu while in Indonesia. I didn’t realise it was swine flu and when I returned home I went straight back into full on training. My heart was under some serious strain, I could feel it every session almost bursting through my chest and I struggled to recover after each session. Eventually I realised this probably wasn’t a good thing and saw my doctor. I’m not kidding when I say she pretty much smacked over the head when I told her what I had been doing. My infection was so bad I had to stop training for six weeks and ended up taking two courses of antibiotics, the doctor told me that any more stress on my heart and body would probably see me end up in hospital. Not a good thing  by anyones standards.

Due to this I also take extra precaution when I get sick, even it’s above my head only. Why? Well let’s think about this.

When you’re sick your body is fighting an infection. It’s putting all of its strength into getting rid of the illness so you do not get worse. When you train you are doing something very similar to your body. You are draining it of stored energy, you are tearing your muscle fibres (yes tearing, it’s for muscle growth) and you are putting it under enormous strain. Think about how you feel after a really intense workout, somewhat similar to being sick? So if you train while you are even minorly sick you body is then trying to fight/repair two ‘infections’, it’s not designed to do this. By doing so you can end up getting worse, look at me and my swine flu-SIX WEEKS OFF! Don’t make the same mistake I did. Take the rest, take that one week off, it’s better than six.

Here’s some other things for you to consider if your still going to be one of those people who ‘just push through’:

You’re contagious and I, nor the other 300-400 people who come through the gym doors daily, want your germs. Firstly for the gym members, if you come in they can catch whatever it is you have, they may get even sicker and have to have time off training. Because of this you are directly affecting their health and fitness goals. How would you feel if someone did that to you? Now when it comes to me, if you come in and I get sick what happens? Plenty. If I need to take time off sick, I don’t get paid for those personal training sessions or classes I don’t take. So you’re affecting my income. Are you going to do my food shopping or pay my rent? Doubt it. Then there’s the clients that I would have to cancel because I don’t want to pass this illness on to them. You are then affecting their health and fitness goals, again I ask how would you feel if someone did this to you? Finally if I get sick, I do not train, refer to the story above. So you’re now affecting my health and fitness and if you know me at all, that’s not a good thing.

This winter I’m asking you one thing. If you get sick, even mildly sick, take time off from training and allow yourself to recover. If you need to go for a gentle walk do so, the fresh air would do you good and get you moving in a way that is not harmful to your body. I know that this might be hard for some to take the time off. They feel guilty for not training. But think about this long and hard, one week now or six weeks forced off with the threat of hospital in the back of your mind? If that doesn’t work then think of everyone else who you could impact by coming into the gym.

If you’re someone who trains with me privately or comes in to my classes, here’s a forewarning: If you come in with even the slightest sniffle, I’m not training you. I refuse to put that stress on your body or put myself at risk of catching it. Save yourself the hassle of debating with me on the gym floor and cancel the session. I will make it up to you later.

This all comes from a place of caring about your health.



About Dion Stewart

Dion Stewart Level 1 Strength & Conditioning Coach-ASCA Cert III/IV in Fitness-Master Trainer Kettlebell Instructor TRX Suspension Trainer Rehab Essentials Certified through Adam Floyd Kickpad Instructor Les Mills RPM Instructor Also a movie freak, tomboy and small time nerd. You can reach her at for further information.

Posted on April 23, 2012, in Random Thoughts and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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