Should You Workout When You’re Ill?

The worst thing about being ill is that you can’t go to the gym.

That’s right.

It’s not the banging headaches, or the tissues stuck to your face… it’s not even the hot lemony drinks that make your house smell like a Minion factory.

It’s that you just want to drink your pre workout, flip your cap like Sylvester Stallone in Over The Top, and smash the weights room, but you can’t.

Or can you?

You’ll get mixed answers if you ask this question on the gym floor, so today I’ll be giving you a definitive answer.

Should You Workout When You’re Ill?

The short answer is no.

But I completely understand why people still go to the gym, and why there is such confusion.

Picture the scene:

You’re sat at work on Monday, chest pumped out, watching over the office like Zeus as your co-workers all succumb to a flu-like virus, as your body stays strong and confirms that you are indeed more man (or woman) than them all.

But the following day, you get it.

Man Flu 2.0.

The thought of missing a few days at the gym is enough to make you want to hunt down the motherf**ker who made you ill and unleash holy hell.

I recently ran a poll on my Twitter page asking what my followers would do, and the results were a very close 52% to 48% in favor of going to the gym and powering through regardless.

We’ll shrink in the mirror…. We’ll lose strength… We’ll be pacing the floor at home when we’re used to being in the weights room…so we go with the old notion of, “I’ll go to the gym and sweat it out…”

should you workout when youre ill

Allow me to dispel one of the greatest fitness myths of all time – you can not sweat out a cold.

Sweat is water.

Contrary to bulls**t fitness memes, sweat is not made of nasty toxins. Nor is it fat crying.

It’s just water.

So anybody claiming you’ll rid your body of an illness by the process of sweating is, for want of a better word, full of s**t.

What they’re mistaking this with, is that training will still make you feel temporarily better because it causes our body to release endorphins that make us feel great. But it shouldn’t be confused with a cure, because once those endorphins fade away, the illness remains.

should you workout when ill

The Exception To The Rule

I’m not saying you can’t train. I’m saying you shouldn’t train.

However, in certain situations you may have no choice.

For instance, if you’re training for an important event or partaking in a challenge on that day.

Which brings me to another question – can you still build muscle when you’re ill?

The answer is yes.

The body is perfectly capable of building lean muscle regardless of whether you are feeling well or feeling unwell.

Of course, it will affect your recovery speed from the session. Exercises like barbell squats, deadlifts, and heavy overhead pressing motions are great for building muscle but they also take a toll on our central nervous system (CNS), and if you’re already feeling under the weather this is just asking for problems.

Another factor to take into consideration here is the rate of perceived effort (RPE).

Example: Your body may be perfectly capable of building muscle, but if you’re already feeling poorly in most cases this results in strength going down, muscular endurance going way down, and recovery between sets being greatly increased. So how hard are you going to be able to train anyway?

So the next time you catch a flu-like virus and contemplate still working out, my advice is to ignore the motherf**ker who says, “I went and did 60 minutes on the cross trainer… sorted me right out!” and listen to your pal who tells you to take a day off.

Your overall recovery will be faster, and your training won’t suffer for it.

should you train while ill

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