How to Train With a Chronic Illness

When and how much should you train? Those question are difficult to answer for every individual. Knowing how to balance overtraining with intense training that produce gains is a tricky balance to maintain. Now throw in the risk of a chronic illness flare up – and your training decisions can become even more critical in preventing illness or injury.

In this post I want to tell you exactly how to train with a chronic illness – so you can avoid overtraining!

Know When to You Should Train

Training plans are usually great for ensuring you don’t overtrain. They also give you the motivation to get out there in the first place. We all love schedules, right? But when dealing with an illness that can creep up at any time, training plans may not always work, especially when you train with a chronic illness.

  • How do you know if you’re going to feel good enough to run?
  • What if you push your body too far and further exacerbate your illness?
  • Are you doing enough training to see the gains?

These are all questions that go through your head every week, and sadly there are no hard and fast rules.

Side note: Any type of training will probably not cure your illness, it’s important to seek external help and determine what, if any exercise is good for your body. I recently tried out a 30-day yoga experiment to see if there are any benefits for me! It was an interesting test, but there were no miracle cures.


Learn to listen to your body

After dealing with any type of chronic illness over a long period of time, you usually become very in tune with your body.

When you become in tune with your body – you notice the signs or signals it’s trying to give you. For example, signs can indicate when your body is about to relapse or when you should take it a little easier and not push yourself anymore. But it’s vital to understand that this is not an excuse to skip your training session. Instead, it will help you train optimally whilst being mindful of your chronic illness.

Even when you may receive illness signals, it’s important to occasionally test your body to confirm that your illness is flaring or if it’s a false alarm. This can happen. Just take it easy when you are trying to find out. And when you have a good day, don’t waste it! Unless you’ve already trained hard the previous day – get out and enjoy your healthy run.

Make an informed decision on the distance and duration of the exercise. Base your decision on the time between now and your last (illness) relapse and how much training you’ve done throughout the current week.

But always remember to enjoy what training or exercise you can do on the day. Do not make comparisons to the past – instead, live in the present.

Using Technology to avoid overtraining

Technology is a great tool to use and can be helpful when making the decision of ‘to train or not to train’. Technology can help you track your general trend and ascertain whether or not you are overtraining.

In my previous post about heart rate variance, I talked about how its a great way of assessing your body without the subjective opinions of your thoughts. But the training method cannot predict the future.

With a chronic illness, you might not know if you are going to be up for 5 miles the next day. It’s important to assess yourself each day. If you need more rest days, take them. That’s ok.


Working out with a Chronic Illness

The type of exercise you choose can have a big play on how your body reacts. If you aren’t feeling 100%, don’t worry. Just cut that planned run down to a walk

For example, you could use the time you were going to run to instead walk to the store and do your grocery shopping.  By doing this, you are freeing up more time to run another day. Two birds, one stone!

If you are unable to complete a workout one day, don’t beat your self up. Instead, find another day where you’re feeling great and make up for it then. Just don’t pack in 8 hours of training on a good day, because you’ll likely be worn out for the next week (or 4) at least!

At the start of the week, I suggest drawing up a rough plan of how many workouts you want to achieve for the week. But most importantly, don’t mark down which day you plan to complete them on. Just do them when you do them!

By not planning each session, this will give you the flexibility to complete them on a day where you feel your best.  If you do not manage to finish the number of workouts you wanted due to your illness, do NOT worry! You would have gained nothing by pushing yourself too much when your body wasn’t in optimal condition.


I can only tell you to listen to your body. Be confident when you have great days and get out and train! Be mindful when you have not-so-good-days and turn those runs into useful walks, or just rest. Know that it’s perfectly fine to do what your body needs. Just be in tune with what your body tells you so you can make informed decisions on your training whilst having a chronic illness.

Gut Health For All

In this post we’ve talked about training with a chronic illness. But what else are you doing to ensure maximum health? I believe this is where the gut comes in. Do you want to know more? Signup now for the Gut Health For All freebie, and start you journey to a healthier life.

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Nick helps aspiring runners learn how to take a healthful approach to their training and races so they don’t crash and burn before they achieve their goals.

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