One rule of thumb that I have read over and over again is about whether you should exercise when you are sick. It goes something like this:
If you get sick and it’s above the neck (runny or stuffy nose, sneezing or sore throat), then you can continue to train with caution, but an illness below the neck (fever, fatigue, muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, sweats, swollen glands or a hacking cough) means you should stop training.
So, I was a little nervous when my sniffles started migrating down my throat towards my chest this weekend. When I woke up, there was no more denying it – I was sick. Training was done. Over.
I laid in my bed and wallowed in my misery, hoping that sleep would help me escape these doldrums. I read. I emailed. I watched the new season of “House of Cards” on Netflix. I just wanted a distraction. The first race of the season is 5 weeks away and every cough reminded me that my training regimen had been shattered.
If there is one thing that I hate, it’s sitting still for hours and hours at a time doing nothing. I’m not one to waste days away on the couch with all-day movie marathons. I like being productive and working towards a goal. Training for mountain bike races is just one manifestation of that inner drive.
But I knew I had to be done. I was coughing and full of phlegm. My muscles ached and I was tired. It’s what I imagine getting older will be like. The mind is sharp, but the body won’t cooperate. The desire is there, but the ability to rally is gone.
It was easy to see this one coming. I am a stay-at-home dad, and as such, I spend a lot of time with children. These dirty little creatures smear their paws from surface to surface collecting grime and tasting it to make sure it really is dirt. They wouldn’t dare put a piece of broccoli in their mouth because it is too gross, but they have no problem eating a brown icicle off of a filthy car’s bumper. Their sense of hygiene is severely lacking and I spend most of my waking moments with these little germ factories.
Honestly, I’m just surprised I haven’t been sick more often.
(For those that have been following Quickdirt, I think the downward spiral might have started after my snowy night ride last week. Exposure + Exhaustion = Compromised Immune System = Illness)
It is a long weekend for my family. My wife doesn’t have to work on Monday. We were looking forward to several fun days of activities. But now I’m stuck, trying my best to lay still and allow my body to heal so that I am good to go when she returns to the office on Tuesday.
Laying here, it is so hard to be patient. Like everything I do, I tried to tackle recuperation with the same verve that I approach other challenges. I laid as still as I possibly could for 24 hours straight. I slept more than I thought was possible and ate and drank the right things in an effort to my heal myself. When I woke up the next morning I was going to feel better and I was going to workout. I was determined.
Wrong. I still felt awful. In fact, I felt worse. Why couldn’t I compel my body to repair itself? How could these tiny little organisms running around inside me take out a full-grown man?
Is There Any Hope?
There had to be a silver lining inside my aching lungs.
Here is my theory.
I have been working my legs pretty hard the last couple of weeks. I’ve been using the spin bike to train with intensity and working in longer rides as well – tearing sinews and wreaking havoc on muscle tissue. On top of that, I have been cross-training on the treadmill and the elliptical.
Maybe my body just needed a break.
Most training schedules will build up for a couple of weeks at a time and then get easier for a week to allow for recovery. I’ve been going pretty hard for several weeks and this is the time that I should be dialing it back.
Maybe while I’m laying here helpless in this bed my weary muscles are reconnecting tissues and will return stronger than ever.
Maybe if I am really, really good at resting my body will reward me with strength.
I’m not sure if that is true, but I am embracing it. It gives me hope. With the covers piled over my head and my eyes closed I am dreaming about how I am slowly getting stronger. I remind myself that training right now would only make it worse.
There are moments that I feel like this will last forever, but then I try and embrace those positive thoughts.
Weaker today, but stronger tomorrow.
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- Mayo Clinic: Exercise and Illness: Workout with a Cold?
- Runner’s World: Should You Run When You’re Sick?
- MarathonGuide.com: To Run or Not to Run… What to Do When You’re Sick