To Train or Not To Train

By Marilyn Trout | 12/26/11
To Train or Not To Train

LifeSupercharger, “Feeling lazy” January 13, 2011 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

We’ve teamed up with Marilyn Trout, certified USA Cycling Elite Coach to answer Voler Newsletter List members’ training questions. You can view her coach profile at Send your cycling inquiries to Marilyn, and for a limited time, if yours is selected to be answered in our Training column, Voler will send you a $20 gift certificate that can be used towards any purchase from the Voler Store at To submit your inquiry, e-mail her at, and type “Voler Training Question” in the subject line of the e-mail.

The following tip is a reprint of a February 2007 article from Marilyn. Still great off-season advice!


That is the question…

Something is wrong. You just don't feel like yourself and the zip is gone. For whatever reason, your body appears to be in fighting mode. Should you continue to train as normal, cut back or stop altogether? Do a "neck check". If your symptoms are runny nose, scratchy throat or sneezing (all symptoms above the neck), start your workout but reduce the intensity to zones 1,2 or low intensity and shorten up the duration. If you feel worse after the first few minutes, stop and call it quits. If the symptoms are below the neck, such as chest cold, chills, achy muscles or a fever, don't even start. Trying to push past it will likely make your condition worse and cause it to last longer. Get rid of the illness as soon as possible by allowing your limited energy reserves to go into fighting the bug rather than training.

Here's some information to help you to train wisely or not at all.

  • Viruses, incapable of living on their own, are the causes of the common cold. They invade the lining of the nose and throat. Sometimes there are muscle aches and pains throughout the body as the virus moves about. Rarely does the temperature stay elevated for a long period of time. The primary factor that makes a person susceptible to colds is exposure to a cold virus. Thus, being around children or crowded conditions increases this risk. Hand contact with an infected person or contaminated surface is the usual means of transference.
  • Exercising in cold, damp weather does not necessarily lead to colds, however if the person is dressed improperly and the body is fighting to stay warm, the resistance to fight a virus is reduced if contact is made with the virus.
  • Although nasal sprays, decongestants and anti-histamines may help the symptoms, these drugs do nothing to the viral cause or prevent further complications of the common cold. The most effective treatment is to liquefy and warm the mucous in the lungs so that it will flow more freely and carry more of the virus tissue debris away from your lungs. Breathing warm moist air from a shower or bath and drinking warm fluids will be very beneficial in this regard.
  • Adequate humidity in living and working areas is very important in cold prevention and treatment. A relative humidity of at least 35% in the home is good. Cycling outdoors in the winter can also exacerbate dry airways associated with lower temperatures. Covering the mouth and drinking fluids helps.
  • A cold need not curtail training. Drink more fluids, use a humidifier, and take aspirin to relieve aches and pains. Unless there are complications, the sniffling athlete can maintain a training schedule.
  • When symptoms progress such as an increase in muscular pain, ear infections, sore throat or discolored nasal discharge … rest is needed, trainingshould be curtailed and medical attention is needed.
  • Fever associated with these bacteria infections is the body's defense mechanism – it increases the metabolism so that the body will produce more antibodies to kill invading germs. Fever may also be beneficial because human germs grow best at our normal temperature of 98.6 degrees F. They do not multiply at higher temperatures. Whenever there is a fever, exercise must be replaced with rest. Once the fever leaves, exercise may be resumed albeit at low intensity. If the athlete pushes the intensity, there is a good chance of recurrence.
  • A Good Rule to Remember: If there is no fever, it is safe to train through the cold – dress warm, don't catch a chill, lower the intensity and don't overdo it. Low intensity exercise tends to break up the congestion better than rest. It also doesn't aggravate a cough. NEVER EXERCISE WITH A FEVER! Take 2 days easy for every day of fever.


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