Dealing With Illness

There was a time when like clockwork I would get a flu-like illness as the seasons changed from summer to autumn and from spring to summer. I’ve never been one for taking anything for it my belief being I should allow my immune system to do it’s work and to adapt. This always seemed to work as illnesses would never recur. This belief was re-enforced when on the one occasion I took something (on a holiday in Dublin when friends forced me to take medication) I got ill again a matter of weeks later.

In recent years I can’t remember being ill. Probably helped by the lack of stress in my life due to conscious changes I’ve made to my lifestyle and perhaps an element of following the sun, spending winters in the southern hemisphere.

At the beginning of April this all changed.

I could argue I’d forgotten what I should do but that would be a fib. The best thing is to nip it in the bud. In this case I felt it come on through the night, from sore throat, through cough to feeling like death in 8 sleepless hours.

How to nip it in the bud? Well, firstly there’s normally a discussion with friends vaguely remembering something about if it’s above the neck train through if it’s below stop. Or is it the other way round? There’s always someone arguing both ways. I’m pretty sure that it’s if it’s below the neck stop. My logic is that in this case hard exercise tends to exacerbate it since it’s making the lungs work. I also remember from my swimming days that we used to train through a head cold and often it meant every tumble turn was painful due to the added pressure on your sinuses.

So the best approach is to take the day off. In fact, take several days off, knock back vitamin C like there’s no tomorrow and once you feel better give it another day or two before trying training. Like an injury there’s this nagging worry about lost fitness. The pressure is to get back out there but the pressure isn’t so bad if you feel pretty ill. I did. Remember, losing a day now could prevent you losing many more days if you just push through.

If this were one of my athletes I’d be telling them to stop. Stop training, get better. Once you feel better give it two more days. But I’m not one of my athletes. Actually, I am, as I’m self coached but I didn’t follow this advice.

The illness struck in the middle of our first EverydayTraining camp. I could have followed the advice above but I didn’t want to lessen the camp experience for everyone attending so I decided to risk continuing training. Also, though I felt really ill every night I felt better once I was up and about.  A big role for me on the camp was to “entertain” the fast guys. It was fun entertaining them so I put a brave face on it and got out and rode hard.

With hindsight, it was quite an eye opener how your brain can overcome feeling how I did and I completed the camp. Immediately after I took a couple of days easy before getting back in to training.

At that point it felt like I’d managed to wing it and the start of my serious preparations for my summers racing had not been compromised. However, as I sit here writing this a month later I can tell you it was not the case.

I got back to the UK and continued training but it was very stop start. I try training a day, not feel great but push through then the next day feel so bad I’d have to stop. A week after the camp I did a long hard ride with some friends and it completely knocked me for six. The following morning there was no way I was training. I ended up with five zeroes on the trot. Then again a stop start return to training before I managed 5 days of solid training after which the exact same bug hit again just before coming out to Lanzarote for two weeks training. I had three days off completely and then started training clearly not right. Three easy days and I’m, at last, feeling I’m over it.

The net effect has been that from the start of April to mid May my training has been severely compromised. Nearly six weeks when it would have take a fraction of that at the start to sort it out. Remember this when you next feel a sore throat coming on.

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