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The TBN #48-Can I still train if sick and how to comeback to training after a setback?

Updated: 7 days ago

Read time: 3min.

By Coach Yan Busset

Training Through Sickness and Making a Comeback: A Coach’s Guide

In the journey of endurance training, facing illness is an inevitable part of the process. As a professional triathlon coach, I've guided many athletes through the ups and downs of training, including how to handle sickness and setbacks. It's crucial to remember, though, that I am a coach, not a doctor. The insights provided here are meant to complement, not replace, professional medical advice.

Training while sick is a common dilemma for athletes, leaving many wondering whether to push through or pause. The temptation to ignore your body’s warnings in favor of sticking to your training plan can lead to more harm than good, risking your health and setting back your progress.

What if there's a smarter way to handle training during sickness? A more methodic way to balances maintaining your fitness without compromising your health, ensuring a quicker, stronger comeback.

Let's have a straight to the point/practical approach to managing training when you’re under the weather.

Can I Still Train If Sick?

Assess the Severity of Your Illness:

- Differentiate between above-the-neck symptoms (common cold) and more severe symptoms (fever, body aches, fatigue).

- With just above-the-neck symptoms, light training (Zone 1) may be beneficial.

Light Training Benefits:

- Engaging in light activities like walking, gentle running, biking, or mobility exercises can accelerate blood flow. Improved blood flow can speed up healing.

- When to say stop? For below-the-neck symptoms, or in the case of heavier fatigue or fever, then it's a full rest you need.

Listen to Your Body

- The importance of paying attention to your body's warnings cannot be overstated. Ignoring signs of illness can lead to worsened conditions and extended recovery times.

Consulting a Healthcare Professional

- Always seek medical advice to make informed decisions about training during sickness.

Making a Comeback After a Setback

Gradual Return to Training

- Begin with low-intensity exercises, slowly ramping up to pre-sickness levels. I use a rule of thumb: take as many days to return to full training as you were out.

- A lesson learned from the pandemic: prioritize community health by staying home if you're unwell. The days of "pushing through" are behind us, for the sake of everyone's well-being.

The Risks of Training Hard During Flu

- Worsening Symptoms: Training hard can exacerbate symptoms and prolong recovery.

- Compromised Immune System: Intense exercise during the flu can weaken your immune response, raising the risk of complications.

- Risk of Myocarditis: Exercising with the flu increases the risk of this serious heart condition.

- Impaired Performance and Longer Recovery: Pushing your limits can lead to decreased performance and extended downtime.

Anticipation and Prevention

The best way to recover from sickness is to not get sick in the first place.

Listen to your body and take rest when needed. Recording your recovery value is key to learning and understanding when you need to ease off the training and not push through. Looking at your recovery heart rate or heart rate variability, and sleeping hours will teach you the pattern of the red flags your body sends you to help you make the right decision.

To eliminate too much subjectivity in the decision-making process (e.g., "Am I just lazy today, or do I actually need to rest?"), I use the 20-minute rule of assessment: when feeling under the weather, give your session a try for 20 minutes. Most of the time, you'll feel better after 5-10 minutes, but if it doesn't get better after 20 minutes: be smart and call it a day!

Smart Training Decisions

Understanding the balance between pushing through discomfort and recognizing when to rest is crucial for long-term success. Always look at the big picture: the main takeaway message is clear: listening to your body and prioritizing health above all else is key. Taking a step back when necessary is not a sign of weakness, but of wisdom and strength.


Whenever you’re ready, there are 3 ways I can help you:

2. If you are in the Helsinki area and looking for the best training group check here

3. If you are looking for an online coaching service check here.


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