Do You Train With A Cough? Reflecting On Wiggins' Withdrawal From Giro Race

Sir Bradley Wiggins undoubtedly has one of the most resilient bodies, and indeed mentalities out there! You don’t win a back to back Olympic gold medal and Tour de France without some serious staying power, but despite this, even the mighty Wiggins succumbs to a cough!

Many might say that a cough is cough and you should guzzle some ‘man-up-acillin’ and grind it out. With Wiggins dropping out on the recommendation of his team Doctor, in a race that he desperately wanted to win raises the question…is training with a cough doing far more damage than good, and could your pride and ambition ultimately be your demise?

I suffered a Spontaneous Pneumothorax (collapsed lung) when playing football back when I was 18 despite being at peak aerobic fitness. This necessitated 2 weeks of bed rest followed by no physical exertion for approx 3-4 weeks after. I respected the Doctors advice and abstained, however he then told me not to train whenever I am suffering with a cold because the chances of a second collapsed lung dramatically increased as a consequence. Despite this advice, I consciously decided that I would train if I had a sniffle and abstain if it was a full blown cold and could barely breathe through my nose. This was my decision, and one I still live by at 27 years of age.

There is a noticeable difference when training with a cold, my energy levels feel low, the brain processes more slowly (no change there some might say), and the whole experience feels more of an uphill struggle. Is this all in my head…no, in fact it is my head and only my head that keeps me going, so should I listen to my body and stop, the answer is probably yes! This is a hugely popular area for discussion, but this is nothing more than my subjective account and merely my humble opinion. I personally feel some common sense should be applied e.g. if you’re attempting to cycle 20+ miles with a cough and a splutter, then I would strongly suggest you don’t, if however you’re wanting to perform a light weights session... then again, I would strongly suggest you don’t. Rest is the remedy here, your body is screaming out for a break and quite honestly you've probably contracted the bug because you’re run down anyway. Further still…if you ain’t training hard, then you may as well heed this advice, ‘Go Hard, Or Go Home’! And since you can’t do the former, I suggest you see this as your time for growth meaning you should eat, drink, and supplement well, therefore stay at home and REST!

Training with a cough and cold severely inhibits your body’s capacity to deliver oxygen to your brain, muscles and major organs, it is unable to dispel carbon dioxide and thus hydrogen ions increase in the  muscle, lactate deposits in your tissue and training is significantly hindered! On top of this your heart and lungs have to work overtime in order to get the same (or close to) amount of oxygen and energy to the body. Consequently your heart and lungs come under strain which may include problems such as bronchospasm and abnormal heart palpatations, as well as light headedness, dizziness and tightness in your chest. If you notice these symptoms then contact your GP, they could be harmless (most palpatations are harmless), but if they occur in unison you should certainly consult a medical expert (Hanania, 2009).

Listen to your body and treat it with the respect it deserves… It’s worth a few days rest so that you can continue to do what you love for a lifetime!

Naturally we wish Wiggo a speedy recovery from his chest infection, lets hope he is able to adequately prep for the big one...the Tour de France in June!


Hanania, N, A, (2009). Exercise- induced asthma. Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine. 15: 1 pp: 25-28.

About the Author

Job Role Qualified Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist Qualifications BSc (Hons) Sports Science | BSc (Hons) Dietetics Tom has always participated in sport both recreationally and competitively which led to an unquenchable thirst for information on anything health, nutrition and fitness. After leaving school Tom went on to play for a football academy during which time he studied Sport and Exercise Science. From here he went on to study a BSc (Hons) Sport Science at UEA followed by his second BSc (Hons) degree, this time at the University of Hertfordshire studying Dietetics. Tom has worked in the fitness, educational and clinical nutrition industry starting out at David Lloyd Health and Leisure Clubs. He then went on to work as a Dietitian (RD) in the NHS, during which time he conducted clinics for healthy eating, weight loss and weight gain, as well as specialised consultations on Diabetes, IBS and Coeliac disease to name a few. He has vast amounts of experience at devising diet plans and supplement regimens, as well as working in the community with schools and competitive athletes. As Head Nutritionist and Supplement expert at Discount Supplements Tom is here to provide current and evidence based health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals!
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