Training Muay Thai when Sick

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I woke up this morning with the sniffles and a migraine. Nothing serious, no fever, just a mild case of body ache. I got through most parts of the morning as per normal until around 11am when I started to prepare for my daily noon Muay Thai workout. I was sweating a bit more profusely than I usually would, the migraine was still there, so were the sniffles. It got me thinking: Should I train Muay Thai while feeling sick?

The (brief) Science of Sickness

Now, isn’t regular exercise supposed to make me stronger and healthier? Technically, that’s a yes. However, a sport as intense as Muay Thai takes a lot out of your body. If you have been training hard and frequent, you could potentially weaken your immune system without proper care of your body.

And what is meant by proper care? Proper diet, proper hydration, proper rest. You need lots of good protein, vitamins and fiber for nutrition. You need to drink at least half a gallon (2 liters) of water everyday and more when you train Muay Thai.

Last but not least, you need to clock in enough hours of sleep in order for your body and muscles to recover and rejuvenate. I guess I have been a bit negligent in all these aspects of late due to work.

Should you train Muay Thai when you are sick?

There’s something known as the above-the-neck rule: If you feel unwell and the symptoms occur below the neck (e.g. diarrhea, achy body, chest congestion), these are signs of flu or fever, and you should certainly rest at home.

If the symptoms occur only above the neck (e.g. runny nose, coughing, scratchy throat), it’s okay to engage in some low-intensity exercise. Key words here: “Low intensity”.

You can burn between 600-1000 calories in one hour of Muay Thai training. Now that certainly doesn’t qualify as a low intensity workout. This, compared to 200-300 calories in an hour of Yoga, and 400-500 calories in an hour of normal pace jogging.

Clearly, if you feel unwell, you should really steer clear of your Muay Thai gym.

Why You Should NOT Train Muay Thai When Sick

It is tempting to want to get a workout. Some people assume that they can sweat out a virus and get rid of the cold. It is a myth and unlikely to get rid of a virus by raising the body temperature.

Here are more reasons why you should not train Muay Thai when feeling unwell:

More Prone to Injuries

You will be feeling weaker and more fatigued than usual. You could be slower to react, or not executing your techniques properly while doing bagwork. Hence you are more likely to hurt yourself, kicking with the wrong part of your shin or punching incorrectly and jack your wrist.

Make Things Worse

Training takes a lot of your energy and this could potentially impact your recovery process. Your body is weakened at this stage and if you push yourself to go through with a high intensity training, it could further weaken your body and make it more susceptible to infection.

You Are Infectious

Most importantly, if you are coughing or sneezing, you could easily pass your germs to your gym mates and instructors when you train. That is just being inconsiderate. Please keep it sanitary and safe for everybody working out at the gym. Stay home!


After a brief deliberation, I decided to skip Muay Thai today. Put on my running gear, and headed for a slow and short jog in the park. The migraine seems to have eased after the jog, and the runny nose too.

If you are intent on exercising when feeling unwell, you can head for a brisk walk, a swim or practise yoga (at home, of course). You are likely to feel better with some perspiration.

As I write this, I’m hydrating myself on H2O, and taking it easy at work. Hopefully after a good and early night’s rest tonight, the sniffles clear by tomorrow and I can resume my training soon enough.

As a famous person once said -and I paraphrase-, listen to your body and take care of it. It’s the only place you have to live. Take care and as always,

Chok Dee!

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