“Should I exercise with a cold?” returns more than 179,000,000 google results, so, it is safe to say that this is a popular question. The current so called Australian Flu and typical winter bugs are doing the rounds and they can really mess with your training plans. If you are cautious by nature, you might think that it is best to stop all exercise until the illness is over. If you are more type-A, super driven and less patient you may be tempted to push on and train through illness. There are massive disadvantages to both and I believe I have the right answer. With this in mind, here are my top tips to keep fit and stay healthy when you get a cold.
Aerobic intensity exercise is your focus during a cold. Hard circuits, interval running, sprinting, HIIT sessions and full speed AMRAPs at CrossFit are out! Cardio-vascular activities such as running, cycling, rowing and even bootcamp or CrossFit must be done at an easy intensity. If you use a heart rate monitor or your exercise machine gives you a reading, take 180 minus your age to give you an ideal aerobic intensity. If you don’t have these things, listen to your body and work only as hard as you can whilst maintaining a conversation.
Pushing and suffering at high intensities will make you more ill and make the illness last longer. The work you do at high intensity during illness will not give the same results as when you are well. As you know by now, aerobic intensity exercise develops your fat burning engine, so there really is no reason not to embrace this!
Practise your favourite lifts at 70% of your usual load.
Perform 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps and take a full 3 minutes’ rest between sets. Move in a tempo that takes 3 seconds to lift the weight and 3 seconds to return.
At the 8-10 rep range you will maintain a high degree of your muscle power, strength endurance, tone and size through quality lifts at an ideal weight. You will avoid unnecessary stress, strain and inflammation that can cause muscle injury when you are ill.
Keep up the good work on your abdominal and trunk exercise. Often the thing you do in-between more “serious” exercises, now is a great time to give special attention to some quality abdominal exercises. Stick to the above 8-10 rep rule and add some resistance by raising your arms and slowing down the movement to 3 seconds up 3 seconds down. Try holding a few extra kilos tight to your chest to make 8-10 reps a challenge. As well as sit ups and planks with knees to elbow you can polish your cable wood chops, hanging leg raises and reverse curls. You might just swap your cold for a six pack!
MOBILITY, STABILITY, FLEXIBILITY
Since I have put a lid on your workout intensity, you may as well embrace these oft neglected, but important areas. Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi are just a few excellent ways to work these three key fitness areas. Book a different taster session every day and you can do the lot for free. By the time you have tried them all, your cold may already be a thing of the past. Away from structured classes, you can practise a basic yoga sun salutation, master the Turkish Get Up and get stuck in to my favourite movement based drills.
Drink according to thirst (read more here) and brew your favourite green tea, peppermint or hot lemon, ginger and honey (recipe coming soon on Instagram). Enjoy coffee and high caffeine teas like matcha and yerba mate up to mid day.
Boozing can turn a mild cold into a persistent sinus, throat and chest problem that really knocks you for six. Alcohol distracts your liver and other organs from the job of fighting your infection so put down the hip flask and get the kettle on.
The common cold is a virus so antibiotics are a waste of time. I recommend high dose (1000mg) of high quality vitamin C taken daily with echinacea drops. Always, read the label.
As always, prioritise 7-9 hours of quality sleep (read more). Your body does most of your healing at night and good sleep is hugely important for a quick recovery from a cold.
So, there you have it. The common cold does not have to derail your fitness plans. Follow this advice to stay healthy and avoid losing fitness or making your illness worse. I would love to hear your top tips and comments. See you soon.