Oh man… every athlete has had to, or will have to, deal with sickness. Those who have been though it understand how hard it is. Here are a few of my thoughts as have been though sickness a couple of weeks ago, and that got me thinking.
I don’t normally get sick and when I do I hate it. In New Zealand we have a thing called “Man Flu”. “Man Flu” is when a man has a small cold they (normally Men) think they are dying! They walk around with their hands dragging on the ground, looking all sad, depressed and telling everyone that they are as sick as they have ever been!
I don’t get “Man Flu”. when I get a cold then I will carry on, maybe pissed off, but get on with life. I will normally cut back on training, maybe taking a couple of days off to let my body recover before I push on. The biggest and hardest question for most people is “I’m sick…. Do I go training? If I do, how much? What intensity? What if I don’t go training? How long do I have off?” I have asked these questions myself every time I am sick.
Here are my thoughts and my rules of thumb. All of these are subjective and only you can say when you are ready to train. Mostly I believe in really looking at yourself and asking: are you too sick to train or is your lack of motivation stopping you. You must be honest with yourself.
When do I train when I am sick? Before I answer this, I ask how sick am I? If I have a little sore throat, then I train. If I have a little sniffle then I do a light training. I always want to make sure the something small doesn’t become something big. Once a sickness becomes a little worse I start thinking about the consequences of going training. Will this make be a better athlete? Will I gain something out of the session or will it make me sicker? One important thing to remember is that the body only loses fitness after about 10 days. The big problem is prolonging the sickness because of not wanting to lose fitness, and keeping on training when it is ill-advised. If you deplete the body with training when sick, then I believe you run the risk of making your illness worse.
When you are in the early part of your season having a couple of days off isn’t a big deal, yet as event season comes closer it becomes harder to make that decision. And when you are a couple weeks out from your key event then it becomes a nightmare! Later in the season it becomes more important to recover as quickly as possible. So many athletes (and me included) have got so stressed about being sick before an event we head out training while really sick or too early after the peak of sickness and this can just set the whole process of recovery back.
Every coach has a different idea of when an athlete can train while sick or when they can return to light or normal training. I find this becomes easier after working with an athlete for some time. Working with an athlete I learn the key words and processes the athlete has. Yet at the end of it all the only person that really knows how you feel is you! Always be honest with yourself and your coach. That way you can return to great training sooner and perform better.
Anyway I believe it is better to have a week off now and recover well than carry on training when I know I shouldn’t. So how do I decide when I shouldn’t train? I use the questions “What will I get out of this training? And will this make me a better athlete?” If the answers are in the negative then it is time to allow the body to recover for a day or two.