The Winter Virus and Fitness Training


ColdAs the Old Guy age grouper I run into my various threshold/crossover/tipping points more quickly than if I was 29 years old.  In a way this is good medicine; it’s like being a canary in a coal mine and I can relay my experiences to younger triathletes who might not have had the experience and it helps me to better train my athletes.

The most recent is the famous Christmas Cold I inherited from “the disease house” (a family bunch got together for a week at the beach and everyone got some kind of bug) so I got to experience the whole cycle of tri-training and disease.   Now, mind you, this was not THE FLU, where the following narrative would’ve been much different and recovery time significantly longer.

It goes like this:

  • Train really hard the first two or three days of your vacation,
  • Then when your immune system is just recovering from a hard session, get exposed to someone with a bug of some kind.
  • Start coughing, stop training and take every medicine known to modern man (just because you CAN).
  • Go to a local Urgent Care Center and get prescribed something that probably isn’t going to help because it’s a virus, not a bacteria.
  • After a week and feeling better, start doing low-level exercise (mostly strength) and heart rate Zone 1 on the bike trainer to keep the BIG MUSCLES (glutes, quads, hamstrings) strong and using oxygen. *This seems to be good  for maintenance, just keep it small.
  • Make a trip to the gym to use the treadmill or elliptical to find they’re closed (New Years Day).
  • Notice that when you finally put on your heart rate monitor your base HR is about 10 to 15% higher than normal. *This, BTW, is pretty normal when you’re sick.
  • Finally go out and do what you’ve been avoiding for over a week because you’re still feeling a tiny bit off; try to do an easy negative split run.
  • Notice that when on a 2% grade in mile 3 and having a slow pace that your heart rate is up in zone 4, although you don’t FEEL that tired. *This is ALSO kind of normal when you’re sick.
  • Realize, from the numbers, not the RPE, that you aren’t fully recovered and back off for the rest of the run because your common sense or your gut (built up over many, many decades of my common sense screaming in my ear) says to take it easy.
  • Feel glad that you used caution and patience after getting your bug-of-unknown-etiology, and that taking it easy but doing common-sense maintenance exercise pays off.
  • Going back to training like gangbusters would’ve taken me two or three times longer to recover.

They usually say something like “If you’re sick from the neck up, it’s OK to exercise” and “If you’re sick below the neck, take it easy” .  Another kind of common sense thing which we often ignore because Type-A people just don’t want to “take it easy”.   Driven people….it’s a blessing and a curse….it’s like having a 200 horsepower engine on a tricycle….hold on!

I’ll be in touch.  2015 will be your year!