Five Simple Tips for Training While You Are Sick

I know when you are sick that you are frustrated and feel like if you just push yourself a little more that you can do your training during your illness. With the exception of a little head cold, which is rarely just that, training when you are sick is off limits. You need to stop your obsessive compulsive tendencies long enough to allow your body to heal. You are not going to make any training gains while you are sick but you can definitely lengthen the stay of your illness and/or make it much worse than it would have been. Chances are if you had just gone to bed when you started getting sick you would already have been over being sick by now and not even reading this post! 

Our mentality around training when we are sick has nothing to do with being tough, it has to do with being smart! For some reason people feel like they need to keep on going and push through being sick instead of accepting that they are sick and seeing it as an opportunity to rest. While many triathletes have important jobs, no one is so important that you can’t be sick. Trust me when I tell you this, no one in your office wants to see you when you are sick and no other athlete wants to come within a 50 foot radius of you. Going to the pool so you can clear your head (blow all your snot out) is just disgusting not to mention the last thing you need to do in order to help yourself recover. Stay home, be quiet, go to bed or use the sofa you never sit on. Check your e-mail and check in with work over the phone. If you are not significantly better after two days or if you have an incredibly sore throat or sinus pain, a trip to the good doctor is order. If you should get antibiotics this does NOT mean you are all better and should start training immediately again. This means you might have another 2+ days off from training. Repeat after me; “this is ok.” You don’t even lose any gains made in training for close to 2 weeks so you have the time to be sick and you have to accept the fact that you are.

Here are things you CAN do:

  • Let your coach know you are sick. Of course I am going to tell you NOT to train! Call your boss or husband or wife and let them know you are sick and going to need some help!
  • Start taking Zycam per the instructions as soon as you start to feel something coming on. I recommend getting a bottle and keeping it with you, especially if you travel.
  • Hydrate with water and good old orange juiceTake some vitamin C, Zinc, Garlic, Echinacea – all of these help to boost the immune system.
  • Sleep -take a nap, get in bed ridiculously early, sleep late. If you have trouble sleeping or are coughing a lot consider some good old NyQuil which will usually knock you out and allow you some very deep sleep.
  • Use a Vaporizor in your bedroom with Vicks in it to help you breathe. Rub Vicks on your chest. I have also found Tiger Balm works well too. There are some essential oils that can be used for this too but that is way out of my realm of knowledge. 

Basically my point with all this above ACTION is that if you stop trying to ignore the fact that you are getting sick, embrace and treat it, often you will only be down and out for 1 to 2 days. if you take the obsessive compulsive track it will usually linger 3-4 days before you get so sick that you can’t work out or function and possibly require another 3-6 days of recovery. At that  point you very well could have put yourself behind in your training. 
When you are feeling better I can give you some “welcome back to training” workouts to ease you back into the program instead of just trying to jump in where you left off. If you do too much too quickly you will likely end up sick again and have to begin this cycle all over.

I have seen far too many athletes sick. While I know it is a product of the time of year, I also believe it is largely due to people burning the candle at both ends. When you are an athlete you need sleep to recover from your workouts otherwise you become very vulnerable to every germ out there.

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