The flu and the late winter/early spring crud hit me really hard this week. I woke up early Wednesday morning praying to the porcelain goddess and spent the rest of the day become very much acquainted with her. I started to feel better on Friday then Friday night I got hit with the crud that my husband had a week or so ago. Athletes often have the hard time when it comes to being sick, I know that I do. It becomes a balance of how much do you rest to get better verses keep pushing through. You always hear the greatest never let anything slow them down, the greatest athletes push through the pain, the sick, the blegh, and the downs. However, the greatest athletes have also learned when to rest their mind, body, and soul.
I will admit I am one of the worst offenders of this and when I am sick I feel as though I spend more time questioning if I'm actually needing the rest of it I am just being a baby. I like to keep up my training even when I am sick (Ironman won't wait for you), to an extent of course as I did not train during the time I spent visiting the porcelain goddess.
Here are couple of ways I ensure that I can keep up my energy when fighting a cold to keep up with training:
Drink a lot of water
Water is important on a regular basis, even when you are not sick, to help your cells function normally. When you are sick it is just as important to maintain that homeostasis, clean out the toxins and replenish your fluid intake. We've all been told if we are vomiting or having diarrhea to keep replenishing your fluids as when you are doing so, as I was on Wednesday, you are very quickly dehydrating yourself. When you have a head cold it helps to keep the mucus from becoming thick which can then help your body to flush it more easily. I have found this bought of sickness the days that I am drinking my gallon of water I can blow my nose easier and it has helped keep the headache of snot pressure away.
Same as any normal day I find that the easiest way to keep myself on track is to fill up my gallon jug, stick it in the refrigerator and fill up my water bottle from that each time. That way i can see how much I have drank and keep track, and the competitive person in me always challenges myself to ensure that I drink that amount.
Don't forget to eat
Its easy when you aren't feeling good to forget to eat as often you may not even be hungry. But just like any other day you body is still working, in fact its probably working overtime, and it requires nutrients in order to function.
Eating good, nutrient dense foods will help you to keep your strength up and prevent some of the fatigue you may feel during your cold. This in turn will help you to keep pushing through, whether that means going to work, training, school, exercise, or keeping track of your kids.
When I am in heavy training mode I maintain a fairly high fat diet and during this bought of crud I found my body actually craving the fats. By fueling my body while sick with healthy fats I give it the energy it needs to keep up with getting healthy and the training.
Get lots of sleep
Sleep, one of the best things for recovery. Make sure you get plenty of sleep; I always aim for 7-8 hours of sleep, even when I'm not sick. During that time you are sleeping you give your body a chance to fully focus on getting healthy. I finally got a good nights sleep last night and it was amazing what it did for my energy level today even with the crud.
Maintain a routine and adjust workouts accordingly
I know that my daily life when in heavy training becomes fairly routine and when I get off that it can throw my body and mind out of wack. When your sick you want to make sure you keep everything as in wack as possible.
Obviously when I spent the day throwing up I did not workout and due to the fact that I had a hard time eating the day after I gave my body another day off after that as I knew it didn't have the right fuel in it to function to the level I wanted it to. But this weekend with the stomach flu gone and the crud taking a front seat in my life I tried to keep some sort of exercise routine. I did this for a couple of reasons:
- I wanted to keep my body moving, blood circulating, toxins being sweated out, and muscles moving.
- I knew it would ensure that I was hungry, reminding me to get nutrition into my system.
- I have big goals for the year and need to keep those in the forefront of my brain at all times in order to hit them.
- I actually felt better during my workouts than when I wasn't working out.
While I kept up with most of my workouts I adjusted based on where I felt my energy level and strength could be pushed. Instead of doing the hard interval workout I had planned I kept it to easy zone 2/3 steady state bike ride, that way I kept my endurance up, heart rate high enough to get a good workout in and sweat out some of the crap but low enough that I wasn't putting too much extra stress on my body. I also cut certain pieces out when I felt I needed to, for example, on Sunday instead of doing my swim and long run I just did my swim and went for a walk instead. The key takeaway is don't be afraid to push through but make sure that you listen to your body when doing so.
Being sick is never fun at all and as an athlete it can be really tough to balance as most of us are those crazy go getters who don't like to be slowed down, especially by being sick. While I am firm believer that you have to "get yourself better" I also feel as though you can maintain a semblance of training or just being the healthy you even during a cold, and I hope that some of the things I do during sickness helps you to figure out how to balance keeping up with training and getting better.