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  Latest update: 12/27/2023

Should I Train While I'm Sick?

I found this excerpt at and thought it made a lot of sense. The old adage with musculoskeletal problems and training for a marathon, was that "if it hurt more when you ran on it, you stopped". If it didn't make any difference, then you could train through it.


"Despite our enhanced level of health and fitness, we cyclists are still human. Which means sometimes we get sick. When it happens, we're faced with these critical decisions: When to train, when to rest, and how to decrease the chances of a relapse.

The debate about whether to train through a routine illness, such as a cold, or get out there and "tough it out" comes down to two words: neck test. Let's say you wake up planning to hit the road. As you roll out of bed, you realize something happened overnight and you don't feel so good. The tendency of most dedicated athletes is to stay on task and work out anyway. But that's not always the best choice when it comes to long-term fitness and performance.

Instead of an automatic response ("Let's do it"), think about where you feel bad. If it's above the neck (stuffy nose, headache), then you're probably good to go. Take it a little easy -- obviously you're not 100% -- but you don't need complete rest. Above the neck means you're above the "gotta rest" cutoff line.

The main exception to the neck test is if you're feverish. You really won't feel like riding and it's smart not to. A fever indicates infection. Don't mess with that. If the problem is in your throat, chest or stomach, take some time off. Pushing through a workout could make you sicker and prolong the illness. Rest now to limit downtime, then ease back into exercise when the symptoms subside. Pushing too hard too soon could cause a relapse.

Remember, 2-3 days off won't have much, if any, negative effect on your fitness or performance. But if you try to push through sickness, not only are you somewhat wasting time with sub-par workouts, you're risking the chance of a brief illness lasting a week or more. Then you will see diminished fitness."

(Brad Cooper, MSPT, MTC, ATC is a physical therapist and president of the premier national employee wellness firm. Information on benefits to employers is at



In late 2023, after a question from a friend, I decided to do a updated review of the literature. A quick review of recent papers supports the benefits i.e. a protective benefit of regular, moderate exercise against developing viral URIs as contrasted to the negative effect of intense exercise.

Once you are ill, the data is less clear. But these two articles (A and B) reflect the current thinking on exercise with an active illness - a protective effect of mild exercise (if you are a mouse) but no solid data on humans, and again the negative impact of undertaking intense exercise while ill.

My conclusion remains to "take a common sense approach". That is, if you feel up to mild exercise, you should listen to your body and go for an easy ride or a brisk walk. But if your legs and body say no, then skip the exercise for another day or two.

All questions and suggestions are appreciated and will be answered.

Cycling Performance Tips
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