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How to Maintain Your Fitness Through Sickness or Illness

Do you, athlete, take you, fitness, to have and to use, in sickness and in health, to win some races?

Chances are, you’re going to get sick. I just can’t imagine any endurance athlete not getting sick at least once per year. When you combine stress, germs, and a high-sugar diet with an intense training schedule that would give the average American a heart attack, your immune system will eventually give in.

But it’s not the end of the world.

You can maintain your fitness through most minor illnesses, possibly coming back stronger than before. The key is to know when to work and when to stay in bed.

If you train when you’re truly sick and should be resting, your sickness will get worse and you’ll lose more fitness than you would have by resting. If you skip workouts just because you don’t feel perfectly gleeful, you’ll miss a lot of workouts and lose fitness.

 

When You Should Rest

There are times when you should rest, no question about it.

A general rule of thumb is, if the sickness is affecting you from your neck down, you need to rest. Stomach flu and pneumonia would be good examples of this. Even if you’re just a little nauseous, you’re still not going to get a good workout, so just wait it out.

Also, if you have a nasty fever and your body temperature is already elevated, there’s no need to increase it further by exercising.

Remember, your body can heal itself quickly if given proper rest and nourishment. Training when you should be resting will only prolong the illness!!

And dont’ stress out about it. First, it takes about two weeks of inactivity to lose fitness. So if you take 3-5 days completely off to completely recover from an illness, you can just get back into training without much hassle. Second, if you get stressed from worrying, that will just make it harder for your body to recover!

 

When You Can Exercise

Generally, if the sickness is in your head, you can exercise. Like if you have a stuffy nose. As long as you can still breathe, you can still exercise.

If you just have a minor head cold, don’t be a sissy. Train!

You don’t want to get burnt out from over training, of course, but if you want to train, go for it!

 

How to Train When You’re Not 100%

The key to training while sick is to ease up on your workload by decreasing training volume and intensity. You’re usually better off focusing on low impact activities.

For example, you could do a nice recovery ride on the rollers or do a fun hike and enjoy the fresh air. If you can get up and out of bed, you can probably benefit from at least a short walk outside in the fresh air.

If you feel pretty good and aren’t dizzy or woozy, you could even do some sprints. You could do a few intense sprints but keep the ride short, which won’t wear your body down like a long ride would. (I’d recommend a short intense ride plus a nap over a longer, moderate paced ride.)

Another idea is to improve other aspects of your game. Maybe you can’t do intervals and increase your VO2 max… But you might be able to go out on your bike and practice track stands or wheelies! Or maybe spend some time performing one leg pedaling drills on rollers.

Basically, do skill work instead of fitness training. Remember, better skills make you go faster too!

 

My Motto

My advice boils down to this:

You’re better off under-trained and well rested than highly trained but not feeling 100%.

If you feel sick, you won’t be able to make the best use of your fitness, and your mental toughness will probably be on the low side as well. You’re probably functioning around 50% of your potential in that case. Whereas, if you only trained to 80% of your potential, but feel good enough to use all 80%, you’re better off.

 

Tips To Avoid Getting Sick In The First Place

Here are some tips to avoid getting sick the next time. Just like avoiding injuries, avoiding illness is technically a way to get in better shape!

1. Eat healthy and natural.

I suggest eating healthy and natural foods all the time, but especially when you need your immune system in tip top shape.

If you feel a sickness coming on, eat lots and lots of fruits and veggies. And drink green tea.

Also, cut out all processed foods and simple sugars. No snack crackers, bagels, energy bars, etc.

2. Get Airborne.

I don’t mean flying. I mean, take Airborne if you even think you might be getting sick. Or if you’re around someone that’s sick.

The claims seem almost too good to be true, but I think this stuff works!

3. Sleep.

Get plenty of sleep, giving your body plenty of time to restore itself. This should be obvious.

4. Avoid germs.

Try to avoid germs in public places, especially if you are days away from an important race. People are spreading germs all around you, and if you touch things like door knobs, remote controls, etc., you’re probably getting germs. Then you touch your cell phone, then the phone goes up to your face. Not a good pathway for germs!!

 

Follow my advice and you should get over your sickness faster, maintain more fitness, and avoid illnesses in the future.

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coach levi
Hi, I'm Coach Levi. I'm a USA Cycling Certified Level 3 Coach as well as Level 1 Certified with Precision Nutrition. Want to feel better, ride faster, and look great? Let's work together!

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Coach Levi is my favorite child and favorite cycling coach. I'd choose him over Christoper McCarmikael even. Did I mention that Levi can coach you to a healthier lifestyle where you look and feel your best?
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Hometown, PA