Updated: Apr 21, 2022
It is common to want to exercise through symptoms of illness/disease. Perhaps our A race is coming, an amazing ride group is schedule for the next day, or we may just be anxious about the idea of missing a workout. In some cases, training can bring relief. But training in other circumstances can worsen the illness, increase symptoms, or extend the duration of sickness.
It is important to know when to push through and when not to.
Fever. Do not train through a fever as exercise can further increase body temperature. Training with a mild fever can worsen symptoms. Training with a fever greater than 101°F can be dangerous. STOP and consult with your health care provider.
Infection. The decision on whether to train depends on where the infection is localized. With systemic infections, athletes must avoid exercise, because the post-exercise status (dehydration, tiredness, etc.) will worsen symptoms. Localized soft tissue infections generally allow us train at desired intensity, unless the location interferes in some way such as with a bike saddle, running shoes, or goggles. Colds and throat infections that produce mild symptoms allow for training, but at low aerobic intensity exercise and no longer than 30 minutes. Exercise can actually help to reduce symptoms of mild respiratory infections.
Headache. With headaches it's important to know the origin. If it is stress, tiredness, gastrointestinal issues, or acid lactic accumulation, 30-60 minutes of low intensity aerobic exercise can help to reduce the intensity of the headache and help to correct the source of the pain. But if the cause is hypertension, exercise will be worsen the pain. In that case, avoid exercise and treat the hypertension.
Diabetes. The extreme ends of diabetes - hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia - are dangerous and diabetic athletes must avoid performing exercise in these situations. Mild deviations can be avoided and/or corrected. Diabetic athletes must measure their glucose levels before exercising regardless of whether symptoms are present.
Mild symptoms of hypoglycemia are corrected by consuming fruits or a sport beverage that provide at least 15 mg of glucose. Measure the capillary glucose at least 15 minutes after. If levels are corrected and symptoms are gone, aerobic exercise no longer than 30-45 min can be performed, and the usual use of fluids and glucose (food or sport beverage) should be used during exercise. Athletes must check their glucose level again after exercise. Avoid high intensity exercise.
Hyperglycemic (diabetic type 2) patients frequently tolerate mild hyperglycemia without symptoms, so it is important to check glucose levels before exercise. If there are no symptoms and levels are slightly above the normal level, athletes should check their hydration status. Mild hyperglycemia is often caused by dehydration and drinking water usually corrects hyperglycemia in 15-20 minutes. If glucose levels are corrected, exercise can be performed as usual.
Remember to check in regularly with your health provider to maintain a good health status. And listen to your body to make smart decisions regarding training for best long-term health.