December 16, 2010 cburnham

When Athletes Get Sick

Not only are there sugar plum fairies going around this time of year, there are also nasty cold and flu bugs. At some point most endurance athletes are going to get hit with a cold and are going to be faced with the question of whether or not they should train. I have two general rules when it comes to training while being sick: if you have to seriously debate whether or not you should train then you shouldn’t, and if you have any symptoms below the neck (including fever) then you definitely shouldn’t train. The last rule is important because so many endurance athletes are obsessive compulsive workaholics that they won’t even debate whether or not they should train with a 101 degree fever.

The most important thing to remember when you are sick is that your body really needs rest to do its job and fight off the nasties. Your not going to gain any fitness if your body is compromised and working hard to fight off invaders.  So the quicker you get better, the quicker you get back to training and putting the hurt on your competition. Listen to your body!

Most importantly, don’t rush back to training the first day you start to feel better. A good rule is to wait one extra day then you think you need to take off before resuming training. Your not going to lose that much fitness in a day (or even 5 – 7 days) so it is better to be safe than sorry to prevent relapsing and getting worse all over again.

Now if you’re not feeling too bad and only have symptoms above the neck you can get out and do some easy workouts. The main thing is to keep your endurance work easy and make sure to stay well fueled throughout the workout.  This is not the time to throw down a massive threshold interval and sweet spot breakthrough workout.  You want to allow yourself to build itself back up before you dig another hole it has to recover out of.

Of course the best offense is a good defense and there are some good healthy practices that can keep you from getting sick in the first place:

  • Just as your diet is at the root of your fitness it is also at the root of your immune system. Focus on eating fruits, veggies, and good proteins. A good multi-vitamin and some extra vitamin C can also be a good insurance policy. Simple sugars have been shown to decrease the immune system so avoid those as much as possible but definitely when you have to be around a bunch of sickies.
  • Yep, your mom was right, wash your hands. Use warm water and soap. Just like a lot of good things in life, do it longer and more often.
  • Rest as hard as you train and get more sleep. I know I have been hitting the sleep thing hard on here the last couple of weeks but it really can make a big difference. Even though most of us can’t, there is a reason professional athletes take naps. If you can go to bed 30 minutes earlier and TIVO the end of the Biggest Loser, do it. It will be there for you tomorrow.

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