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Training is seen by many as a difficult chore yet to the hardened runner or athlete training is part of the everyday cycle and if you have to miss one hour of training you feel like you are being left behind by your competition or undoing all the hard work you have done in the past. This is certainly true whenever someone who likes to keep fit gets sick. The moment you feel sick you worry about tomorrow’s run and whether you will be able to complete it. The thought of taking a day off just doesn’t make sense. You only had your rest day yesterday so you can’t take another day off, or can you? Read on to find out the best way to combat illness when you need to train.

The neck rule

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If you are feeling ill there is a common debate. Can you go for a run and “sweat it out” or do you need to rest? The answer actually depends on how – and where – you are feeling bad. This is where the neck rule comes in. Basically, if you are feeling ill above the neck – headaches, runny nose, cough, watery eyes – you can workout. You can kick its ass by getting a good sweat on. It is still not a good idea to overtrain but you can stick to your normal routine.

If you are feeling sick below the neck you need to rest. If you have a chest infection or stomach problems, this indicates you have a virus. Viruses require the body’s store of energy to fight them and if you go workout you drain your body of energy and the virus will take over. Stay in bed, rest up and let your body do its work.

A lot of people ask if the neck rule is the law to live by, what about the neck? It depends, if you have a sort throat it may be just part of a cold and not a problem, you can workout. It may be part of a virus though and then it is better to rest. If you need the rule to go by then take it that if your throat is in bad shape, you need to rest too.

The impact

Athletes and weekend warriors worry that if they miss a couple of days of training they will lose their edge, this is simply not the case. While trainers would advise one to two rest days a week taking a longer break every so often is also a good idea. If you are running a half marathon most trainers will taper you off so that in the seven days prior you are basically doing no training. This will not leave you in poor shape but actually put you in the optimum position to record your best time. Therefore if you are sick you can simply relax and get better.

The real impact

I know that some of you are reading that last paragraph and thinking it simply isn’t true. Maybe you came back from illness before and you felt terrible like you had lost everything. Two things could be happening here. One is that although you feel better your body still hasn’t recovered from the illness and it is this reason that you are performing poorly. Many trainers advise that on the day you feel better you should wait one more day to return to training – just to make sure you are back fit. The second thing that may be happening is that you simply feel unfit from laying in bed all week – like your body has gathered rust. However a couple of runs later and you will be back to your best. It won’t take weeks to get there.