Should You Train When Ill?

A question most of us have encountered at some point in our training lives. You don't feel great- should you still train?

Our answer is... it depends!

How ill are you?

If you are unable to go to work, you are unable to go to the gym. Be sensible here. A few days, even a week or two, away from the gym, will not cause months and years of hard earned muscle to waste away into nothing. Focus on eating nutrient dense foods and resting.

If, however, you are able to go about your usual daily activities, a deload style session might still be possible. Ask yourself if you are really unwell... or just a little tired and looking for an excuse to skip training.

What kind of exercise?

Extremely high intensity activity that will require a lot of energy to recover from and leave you very fatigued will only extend the illness. As discussed above with the 'deload style session', you may need to reduce SetsxReps, or distance for a runner.

The average person in the weights area of a gym isn't training hard enough to cause too much damage. Real over-training can affect the immune system, but again, most will not ever experience it.

On the other hand, running a marathon may temporarily depress the adaptive immune system for up to 72 hours. Definitely don't run a marathon when under the weather!

Will you feel better or worse for it?

There are times, with a mild cold or bloating, that we can feel better for getting a sweat on and some blood flowing.

Is it contagious?

Have some gym etiquette here! If you are going to be violently sneezing over equipment every 5 seconds... it would be polite for you to stay away. Other people have jobs and families or might be training for an upcoming competition or event, consider how you would feel in their shoes.


While we might not be able to give a definitive answer, we hope that these points will help you come to a decision next time you aren't feeling the best.

Put yourself in the best position to recover, or avoid illness in the first place, by:

  • eating lots of micronutrient dense foods
  • staying hydrated
  • supplementation

About the Author

Savannah Westerby, BSc Sport and Exercise Nutrition. IG:@savannahwesterby
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