To train
or not
to train?

How to work out when your body isn't at its best

August 23, 2017

How to work out when your body isn't at its best

August 23, 2017

Have you ever tried to ‘sweat out’ a cold? Or attempted to tackle a workout when you feel overwhelmed and stressed? Have you ever dragged yourself to the gym after very little sleep? Or attempted a long run with a hangover?

Well if you have, you will know the complete fatigue, exhaustion and absolute lack of energy that you feel from the beginning to the end of that workout.

Dedication to self-improvement and goal setting are incredible qualities to possess. However, this can sometimes be to our own detriment. Rest and recovering are essential in improving both strength and cardiovascular fitness. Therefore the question remains, when should you rest and when should you train on through?

Let’s set some simple guidelines to make sure you allow for adequate recovery time before charging into your next session where you may do more harm than good.

Struck down by a Cold (or Flu).

Studies show that regular light to moderate exercise can help to boost immune function and ward off the common cold. However, if you are already sick, exercise can exacerbate the symptoms and prolong the duration.
When it comes to the common cold, a simple ‘below the neck rule’ should guide your training. Dr. Neiman from the American College of Sports Medicine gave light, moderate exercise, like walking, light jogging and yoga, the green light if the symptoms are confined to your head; sneezing, itchy throat and runny nose. It is recommended to steer clear of intense exercise for at least 3 days after your symptoms subside.

If symptoms are found below the neck, eg. fever, aching muscles or coughing, exercise may increase the duration and intensity. Give yourself at least 2 weeks recovery from a more serious bout of cold or flu.

  • Rest up, get more sleep, keep hydrated and ease slowly back into your training.
  • Choose: Walking or yoga.

Sleep Deprived.

Should you train on those days when you can barely keep your eyes open? A lack of sleep means fatigue, low energy, poor focus and slow recovery. So while training after a night of poor sleep may not be detrimental to the body, it is definitely not the day to expect great results.

Sleep is vital for recovery and performance. Insufficient sleep means not only a reduction in aerobic endurance and muscle repair, but also an increased release of cortisol (a stress hormone) into the blood stream. Cortisol plays an important role in acute situations, but when it is too high for too long it can reduce immune function, make it nearly impossible to build muscle tissue and inhibit bone formation. Not a great combination for someone looking to improve their strength and fitness!

If you’re tired, stick to light and moderate intensity exercise to boost your energy levels. However, if you are seriously sleep deprived, you will be better off getting some extra shut-eye.

  • Steer clear of high-intensity training and endurance training when you are sleep deprived. Opt for an early night instead.
  • Choose: Walking, light jog, swimming or yoga.


There has been no benefit found in exercising when you’re hungover. In fact, the best option is to stay in bed and recover from a night of indulgence.
A combination of dehydration, lack of focus and coordination mean that training with a hangover can even make exercise dangerous.

  • Rehydrate
  • Choose: Rest.


When it comes to stress and exercise there are two sides to the story. Exercise has been proven to be extremely effective in relieving symptoms of mild stress as physical activity boosts the production of your brain’s feel-good hormone, endorphins. However, it is possible to be too stressed to gain the benefits of exercise. When stress is overwhelming and on-going, our bodies go into lock down. Stress prolongs recovery, reduces strength, stops fat loss and results in poor quality sleep. To hit this cycle on the head, you need to listen to your body and take a time out.

  • Take a de-load week, switch off from technology and get some quality down time.
  • Choose: Yoga, Meditation, Jogging or Swimming.

Lacking Motivation.

To train or not to train? If you’re lacking motivation, there’s no way around it. It’s time to get those runners on.

To untapp some real motivation you first have to understand why exercise is important for you and create a goal worth working towards.
Next, make sure to include activities you enjoy, knowing that you will feel awesome afterwards. Remember you don’t have to slog out a sweaty spin session to have profound benefits on both your physical and mental health. Finally, make yourself accountable. Reach out to a personal trainer or friend who can help kick you into action and blast through the motivation plateau.

  • Create a goal, choose activies you enjoy and keep accountable to a friend or a personal trainer.
  • Choose: HIIT, interval training and group training.


Image by stock_colours/iStock

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