Dealing With Illness And Training
It’s that time of year. Not only is it the holiday season, but it seems a lot of people are getting sick. Several of my athletes in the last few weeks are dealing with either a cold or the flu, so it seemed like a good time to write something about it.
So what do you do if you feel sick? My rule is that health is #1. If you are feeling too crappy to work out, skip the workout. Sometimes that extra day off will give you the rest you need so your body can kick whatever it is fighting. But with that, if you don’t feel well enough to workout, take it easy and don’t replace the workout time with some other “stressful” activity. If you workout in the morning, get that extra sleep. If you workout in the evening, still try to get that extra sleep. (You can probably tell I’m a big fan of sleep.)
Another option if you are feeling a little down, but still have energy to workout, is to modify the workout. Instead of doing the intervals that are prescribed, turn it into a drill or technique session and keep the intensity down. There is also a general rule of thumb that if your symptoms are below your neck, let it rest. Meaning that hacking cough you have is a good sign you need to take some time off. It’s usually OK to workout with a bit of a runny nose (just be polite to any workout partners and have a lot of kleenex on hand and wash your hands.)
Say you are sick and have to take a few days off. You may feel guilty about missing workouts. But don’t. (Here’s a recent article from Hal Higdon that mentions this.) Remember the rule – health is always #1. Training is specific applied stress to then recover and get adaptations. If your body is under additional stress (some kind of illness) there is a good chance the training is not going to give you the adaptations you desire, but rather add additional stress that might make it take longer for you to recover. So no guilt – get healthy!
How do you get healthy? It’s really the standard recipe for successful training recovery. Eat well, drink plenty of fluids, and get a good amount of sleep. You just might need a little more to help your body along. Now is a good time to eat those vegetables and fruit! Make sure to wash your hands to lessen the chance of spreading what you have and also it’s a good way to try to prevent catching something.
Now that you’ve rested and are feeling better, how do you get back into the swing of things? If you’ve only been out a couple days and feel good, you can might be able to just start back up where you left off. Again, don’t feel the need to “make up” any missed workouts. They are in the past! If you’ve taken a handful of days off, then make those first few workouts a little easier or a little shorter. Again, listen to your body and if it says slow down or stop, that’s what you need to do. This is definitely the case if you’ve been knocked down pretty hard with the flu. You will most likely need to modify your training for your return week (or two) so that you don’t do too much too soon, and get your energy stores and hydration status back to normal. You of the result of an illness is similar to a really hard race, you need to allow your body that recovery time.
I’m wishing everyone a happy and healthy holiday season, and quick and smart recoveries if you do happen to get the unfortunate holiday gift of a bug.