PT on the Net Research

Training While Sick


I am wondering how we can as personal trainers have a better understanding of knowing when our clients should train? Should our clients work through the common cold, water infections etc.? Are there any guidelines you can give us regarding this? The problem is we are not doctors and therefore cannot diagnose but can we maintain fitness through illness?


You are absolutely correct when you say that we cannot diagnose and that is not/should not be our job. We are here to RECOMMEND and EDUCATE people on how to lead a healthier and more vital life. What is health? As Paul Chek says, “health is taking responsibility for one self!” So it takes education in order for your clients to get the big picture and that sometimes means “less is more!” 

Now education can be taught on many levels and can encompass many topics. It is not always about exercise. That is one piece to the puzzle, but you can see if a client has a cold, infection, disease, chronic fatigue, etc. how do you even begin exercise with them? If you do take them through their exercise program, all you will be doing is putting more fuel on the fire which will create even more inflammation and dysfunction. One of the main problems that I see today a lot are clients that have chronic inflammation (muscles, tendons, organs, etc.) and injury secondary to a trainer or other health care practitioner trying to push the envelope. It is not about sweat, shortness of breath and making your clients throw up. It is about quality of movement, education, teaching how to, and “training, not draining!” There needs to be a benefit for the client, not an ego boost for the trainer.

In Paul Chek’s Nutrition and Lifestyle Coaching Certification and CHEK Exercise Coach Certification you learn how to assess someone’s physiological load.  This means finding out how much sympathetic stress your client is under and maybe where it is coming from: musculoskeletal, hormonal and limbic systems.  A good place to start in order to understand this, apply it to yourself and then your clients with Paul’s book How To Eat, Move and Be Healthy and then progress to his NLC Level 1 or Exercise Coach Certifications.

When and if a client gets a cold or has an infection of some sort, canceling the session is not the best thing to do. It really depends on the circumstance, so use your best judgment. There is so much you can do for a client besides just exercise and they are as follows:

  1. Have them come in and do an education session on:
    • Metabolic Typing
    • Organic vs. Conventional Foods
    • Digestive System health and detoxification
    • Water
    • Circadian Rhythms and hormone levels
    • Stress and its many faces
    • Detoxification
    • Nutrition and Lifestyle principles that have an affect on the immune system
    • This is to name a few, but make sure you feel comfortable with what you are going to talk about. Pick your battles and prioritize what the client needs.
  2. You can recommend having them come in and do some inner unit work, depending on why they are ill.
  3. You can recommend them coming in for some Neuromuscular Therapy work, trigger point work or a deep tissue massage (if you are qualified).
  4. You could have them come in to work on their flexibility routine.
  5. Refer them to their MD, a Naturopath, Acupuncturist, Homeopathic Doctor, etc.
  6. You can as well have a phone consultation with them if they feel too sick and tired to come in. Most of this can be done over the phone.

For them to cancel a particular session with you is OK, if the circumstances are right. Having them cancel over and over is not going to get them to where they want to go. You get back from the universe what you put out there. So if you are sick and give into it, it will take longer to heal and affect you in so many more ways than you could imagine.

The goal when someone is fighting a cold, has an infection or inflammation is to start educating them on their nutrition and lifestyle principles. Evaluating a client’s nutrition for sugar, flour, salt, processed/enriched foods, pasteurized milk, aspartame, alcohol, etc. to name a few, this will most likely give you some answers. Sugar is in almost everything these days and is anything that ends in –OSE. Did you know that 1tsp. of sugar inhibits your immune system for 4 hours! As well, if you analyze their lifestyle: sleep/wake cycles, stressors (physical, chemical, mental, emotional, EMF, environmental, etc) and water intake, etc., this will most likely give you some answers. So the bottom line is to make use of all the time you have with a client, whether it is in person or over the phone.  Open your client’s eyes to more than just exercise. This will not only benefit them, but at the same time benefit you and your business. Remember, it is not by chance that we get sick or things happen, it is by choice. Good luck!