Should I swim with a cold?

7024736645_ff2134d9b3_oIf you’d told me a year ago that, in spite of feeling like death, I would be dragging myself to the pool on a Saturday to swim tech sets I wouldn’t have believed you.

But it’s funny how habit forming regular exercise is. After a year of swimming twice a week, most weeks, it’s now so ingrained that the thought of going without doesn’t cross my mind.

Rewind to Saturday. I’d spent the previous day trying to work at home and had given up at lunchtime, waylaid by a temperature and sore throat. Nothing serious but enough to stop me from being able to think creatively.

I could easily have stayed in bed, feeling sorry for myself. But the pool beckoned. Unlike elite or club swimmers I’ve never swum through illness before, so I asked Mr Google what I should do.

This took me to Oliver LeRoy’s excellent article for SwimSwam, which told me that as long as my symptoms were above the neck (they were) then I would be safe to swim a short 30 minute set. I’d heard this before so it was nice to discover more about the science behind this theory.

Research has shown that short swim sessions can allieviate the symptoms of a cold, albeit temporarily, making you feel a bit better by pumping more blood to otherwise sore muscles. It also suggests that this kind of training doesn’t hasten or slow recovery from a cold.

Conversely, LeRoy’s article warned that research had found long 2hr training sessions could make recovery from a cold take longer.

Happy to be let off the hook from my planned Sunday mammoth session, I stuck to a short Saturday swim, with lots of pull sets to take the pressure off.

I felt better the moment I got in the pool. No longer feverish and with aching limbs supported by the water, it was like my cold had vanished (for now). I managed 900m, which was fine – Saturday is normally my short ‘tech’ day anyway.

The benefits last several hours and, although I did feel poorly and tired again later, for a while it was as if my illness had vanished.

A few days later I felt completely back to normal – enough to swim a distance PB on the Wednesday – more on that soon.

IMAGE: Derek E-Jay under Creative Commons licence.




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