Respiratory infections of all types (upper & lower) affect Endurance Athletes all year, not just during the so-called “cold & flu season”.
This reality, and the inevitable training set-back that comes from getting sick, is a cause of stress and frustration for all Athletes, especially those training toward a specific goal.
With that in mind we are dedicating this Coaches Corner to strategies that will minimize the setback and severity of a respiratory-tract infection and get you back to training as quickly as possible.
For Athletes there are two major stages of a respiratory infection:
Opting for an indoor or trainer-based workout, when symptoms of sickness arise, is a great way to minimize the duration of an illness. Photo Credit: Doug Ernest, Inland Sports Photography.
#1 Prevention & Avoidance: An Ounce Of Prevention Is Worth…
One would have to live in a cave to not have heard the adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This sage wisdom is excellent advice, but in the hustle and stress of modern life, it can be easy to breeze by the otherwise obvious warning signs of an oncoming sickness.
Even worse, when symptoms are small, one can be forgiven for thinking that, if ignored, they will subside or go away. Unfortunately in nearly all instances, symptoms only get more acute and severe. With that in mind, we suggest attacking symptoms ‘full-force’ the moment they reveal themselves with these tactics:
A- Grab The Immune System Boosters: Vitamin-C is especially effective, but also adding Vitamin’s- A, D, E, B6 and B12 to your repertoire can ensure your immune system is fully equipped to fight whatever invaders it faces.
B- Rest Hard: Heading to bed early is the best defense against sickness as it naturally boosts your immune system and offers our bodies the time to combat germs. If possible, add a nap to your day, or just look for an early bed-time to achieve the extra rest necessary. Chances are, you will awake the next morning feeling much better.
C- Make It A Recovery Day: Strenuous workouts compromise the immune system after training, by some accounts for a period of up to 72hrs. Thus, if you awake with minor symptoms and train hard, it is inevitable that symptoms will advance the next day.
With this in mind, we suggest being pro-active and swapping a prescribed interval session for a recovery ride or endurance day. This less-intense workout, coupled with a good nights sleep, and a focus on immune system boosters will greatly diminish your chances of becoming ill.
In order to win an Athlete must be be able to bounce back quickly from setbacks including illness. Photo Credit: Danny Munson, DMunsonPhoto.com
#2: I’m Sick, But I Still Want To Train, Should I Stop...?
Unfortunately despite our best efforts, getting sick happens, and in some cases being sick is a simple as going to bed without symptoms and waking feeling awful.
Once a sickness takes hold an Athlete should adjust their perspective from preparing for, and executing, their regular training, to recovering from illness. This is best done by redirecting energy spent on training toward recovery techniques.
Additionally, in regards to respiratory infections and their symptoms, there are two types of the illness that Endurance Athletes should be equipped to deal with:
A- Symptoms Above The Neck: If the symptoms you face are above the neck, i.e. limited to the head, sinuses, throat, etc., short duration endurance or recovery-paced workouts are acceptable. Limit bouts of exercise to one hour or less, consider working-out indoors to avoid exposure to the elements, and follow the rest and immunes system boosting guidelines above.
Do this an you are likely to be back to full strength before you know it!
B- Symptoms Below The Neck: If you are experiencing symptoms below the neck such as a queasy stomach or vomiting, phlegm in the lungs (any color, but especially anything other than white/clear), fever, muscle aches, or wheezing, it’s time to seek treatment or guidance from medical professionals.
It should be said that there is ZERO benefit to attempting a workout when experiencing these types of symptoms. When confronted with these acute symptoms the only goal is to get 100% well, which requires rest, immune system boosters, and possibly prescription or ‘over the counter’ medication.
Do not resume regular training until you are well and feeling normal again! Ignoring this will only result in further setback to your training and prolonged sickness.
Getting sick is an unfortunate reality for everyone, but especially Endurance Athletes. However, it doesn’t have to be a major set-back. By following the guidelines above and seeking medical advice when symptoms arise, and before they become acute, the amount of time spent being sick is likely to be minimal.
It nearly goes without saying that building our best fitness is the result of great training and continual effort, not any singular workout. However, although that seems straight-forward, most Athletes are guilty of prolonging their own sickness by pushing too quickly to get back to regular training.
The moral here is this; by maintaining a high-level of self-awareness and listening to your body, you are likely to experience minimal setbacks in training due to sickness and thus remain on target to achieve your fitness goals!
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian and Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching