How to beat the common cold and tips on how you should think about training

Common solutions for the common cold

With it being winter, the number of people you see around you falling victim to the common cold is likely to be rising. Unfortunately, this also means your susceptibility to illness is also on the rise!

If you do fall ill, we just have to be smart about how we manage your training and how you get back to performing at 100%.

We here at Soho Fitness Lab have put together some advice to help you beat the cold and get back to training.

Why am I ill?

Your first thought when you get ill should be: why did I get ill? Your immune system is like a chest of drawers and each of your daily stressors (work, lack of sleep, training) pull out a drawer on that chest of drawers. Eventually it becomes unbalanced when too many drawers (stressors) are open and falls over. Stressors alone are not bad, stressors such as training are obviously good. However, as with anything in life, balance is key.

Should I train?

When you get ill, it is important to determine how ill you actually are. The reason for this is because the answer to ‘should I train?’ is: it depends.

The general recommendations for training through illness depends on the location of the symptoms.

If your symptoms are from the neck up, you can train but training volume and intensity should be reduced and monitored closely. Exercise should remain low intensity and aerobic in nature, as well as being brief. As a rule of thumb, don’t let your heart rate (in beats per minute) exceed 70% of your max heart rate. Alternatively, a quick sum is to do 180 bpm minus your age, and use that number as your heart rate goal. High intensity and long endurance based exercise should be avoided.

If your symptoms are below the neck, then the answer to ‘should I train?’ is absolutely not. Training through symptoms leading to respiratory issues can place a huge amount of stress on the heart.

Beating the illness

Once you have decided on the severity of your cold, your primary objective should be putting a plan in place to get back to normal. There are 3 key factors which will aid in your rate of recovery.

1: Reduce stress where possible

Psychological stress and immune function are hugely intertwined. Cortisol and adrenaline will be released when you are in a ‘stressed’ state. Both of these hormones have a negative effect on the immune system which is potentially due to disruption of white blood cell function and count.

2: Sleep

Get 7-8 hours sleep a night. Sleep is important – a reduction in sleep can affect the release of cytokines. Cytokines play a vital role in immune function. A reduction of sleep from 8 to 6 hours for just 8 days can significantly increase the amount of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Sleep, regardless of whether you are ill or not is one of the most important influencers of recovery. A lack of sleep can mean a disturbance in muscle protein accumulation which means less skeletal muscle recovery and therefore adaptation. Not only that, but sleep is essential for cognitive repair. Without sleep, alertness and reaction times are negatively affected which are significantly correlated with injury risk. Bottom line – sleep is important!

3: Diet

First of all, your top priority should be eating enough. If you are currently in a calorie deficit now is the time to bring yourself back up. A calorie is a unit of energy first and foremost, and getting as much energy as possible is vital for your immune system.

While supplements may increase recovery rates, research on this topic has yet to reach a definite conclusion. Your main focus should be on eating a wide variety of foods such as fruit, vegetables and even dairy to get a wide array of vitamins, minerals and pro/prebiotics. Vegetables such as asparagus and leeks are great sources of prebiotics. As are fruits such as bananas, apples and citrus fruits. To get your probiotic fix, have some natural yogurt.

Finally, protein should be a top priority. Protein serves as the building blocks for antibodies and immune system cells. Foods such as eggs and protein from animals (beef, chicken or fish) are great sources of protein.

A final note

Although illness puts a temporary block on training, it won’t be permanent. Consistently training whilst ill is more likely to prolong symptoms and reduce results long term. This is due to the fact that intensity and volume will remain low for a prolonged amount of time. Stopping for a few days is the quickest solution if symptoms are bad. Just make sure you follow the guidelines on stress, sleep and diet

If you are looking to optimise your health and fitness please get in touch today to book a free consultation with one of our expert coaches by emailing

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Published on 09th Jan 20