As part of our “Train your way” feature, I thought we needed to discuss a most current event… Illness and how to get back on board afterwards.

It happens to all of us at some point that we get sick. The first question for most fitness enthusiasts is, “do I workout when I feel something coming on or not?”.

The answer is a couple of things and depends on your current situation.

  1. If you’ve been working out and start to feel like you might be catching a bug, take your workouts down to a very light level rather than your norm. This will help keep your immune system functioning at a high level which will help you overcome the illness faster. A light level might look like walking or stretching.
  2. If you haven’t been working out regularly and start to feel ill, now is not the time to start something. You could still go for some walks or do some light stretching, but keep the heart rate near resting level and you’ll be ready to go before long.
  3. If you’re in the trenches of illness (really not feeling well) exercise in the normal sense is the last thing to worry about (as it will only cause a lowering of your immune system and an overtaxing of your body) HOWEVER, getting up to move a bit, ie. walking around the house or to the mailbox can provide some relief both physically and mentally. Stretching or using a stick to roll out with can help the lymph system to remove toxins from the body which in turn can also help you feel better.

So if we are to lower the level when we feel it coming on, how on earth do we get started back?

It happens too often that people try to bounce back to their pre-sick state of exercise the day they begin feeling better.

The problem with that is that while you are no longer showing symptoms of illness, your body has been under attack for a while and it needs time to repair and regenerate.

The best way to get started back is to work backwards.

Start with a slightly more intense walk than you were doing while sick or a beginner yoga session (I prefer to do this at home so if I become over tired, I can stop to rest).

Then beginning back in the gym 2-5 days after feeling better (unless you have a specific illness that requires longer, such as COVID) begin with a much lighter weight routine than you’ve previously done.

Think like 25% of your normal.

Begin with a shorter routine of perhaps 15-30 minutes and keep cardio slower and for less time.

My favorite way to build back with weight training is to do a mixed program where I perform 1-2 weight exercises followed by a slower cardio exercise and repeat.

This allows me to get my heart rate up bit by bit and build back my muscular endurance at the same time.

After about 2-3 sessions like that, I begin to raise weights, time, etc. to be closer to what it was before I was sick.

Remember that it will all depend on how long you were down for and how severely ill you were.

The longer or more severe, the slower I would recommend coming back. Keeping in mind that the harder or faster that you push to return to your “normal” the more likely you are to relapse into the illness or cause injury to yourself.

I hope this helps you in your efforts to “Train your way” instead of just doing what everyone else is doing.

If you have experienced illness and could use some help getting going afterwards, please feel free to reach out to our team. We’d be happy to help.