Tis the Season! Cold season that is! Unless you live in a bubble far away from civilization and human contact, it’s pretty much inevitable that you’ll contact some kind of cold this year. This of course isn’t the end of the world of course for most of us. But it can have an compounded impact on our training and fitness that might last in to the season if not handled properly. We certainly are not certified MD’s, but we’ve seen it and lived it when it comes to training through illness. Here are a few of our favorite tips for before, during and after catching a cold to keep your season on track.
Before You Get Sick
Be Clean – Now more than ever it’s crucial to keep everything you come in contact with as clean as possible. Be sure to wash you bottles thoroughly after each use. Try and make sure your personal belongings only come in contact with you (keys, wallets, cell phones, etc). Make sure to stay on top of laundry for attire and bedding. Wash you hands methodically and often. Keep hand sanitize handy and use after touching any highly trafficked surfaces (door knobs, pin pads, shopping carts, etc).
Stay Charged Up – No, we don’t mean keep your cell phone battery! Now it’s really important to keep your internal batteries charged. With the added hustle and bustle of the holidays it’s easy to ignore the toll the added stress places on our bodies and energy systems. It’s very easy to get stretched so thin that our defense systems get weakened. Be mindful of the quantity and quality of the sleep you get nightly. Even an hour less sleep per night adds up to a full night’s sleep missed over the course of a week! Along with sleep be sure to be getting consistent balanced meals even though time might be crunched.
Know the Warning Signs – Feeling a slight sniffle that wasn’t there yesterday? Is your resting heart rate elevated a few beats per minute? Having unexpected trouble hitting power targets during training? All possible warning signs that should be communicated to your coach immediately. Now more than ever is an appropriate time to communicate any irregularities you notice with your body. Most of the time it might just be from an abnormal stress (6+ hours of travel to visit family for a weekend), or it could be valid reason to take an extra rest day. “When in doubt, point it out”, and let your coach help you decide how to proceed.
While You’re Sick
Shut It Down – So you took every precaution possible but the inevitable happened and you caught the dreaded cold. Step one is shut down all unnecessary energy expenditures. This includes training! Far too often we see athletes try to modify or “train through” the beginning days of an illness and wind up prolonging what otherwise would have been a quick recovery. By the time you are experiencing full blow symptoms, you’ve already been working through the virus for a few days since contracting it. The common cold will show symptoms for 1-4 days. Resting for this period and resolving the issue quickly is our default best practice, but always consult with your coach first.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate – Drink your water! Upping your water consumption will help your body to flush out all the waste that is being created while it fights off the virus. Clear liquids are your friend. Dairy and highly acidic liquids can be negatives. This is also an extra important time to stick to your food plan! Blanched and clean meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables are essential to fueling your body for the internal fight! Avoid the processed comfort foods like pizza, cookies and high sugar content foods. And if getting down solid foods isn’t possible, then the tried and true chicken noodle soup is always a safe bet.
Rest and Recover – If you can put it off, do it. This goes hand in hand with our first point, but that’s a testament to how important resting is to the healing process. Getting plenty of sleep and saving your energy will only expedite the eradication of the virus from your system. Listen to your body and rest while it does it’s job. Sleep as much as need be, within the confines of your schedule of course.
After You’re Better
Healthy + 1 Day – Our rule of thumb is the first day you’re feeling better and ready to train, always wait 1 more day to resume your routine. Yes, as you pull out of the cold some light activity will help to move the illness out. But far too often an athlete gets ahead of themselves and pushes too much intensity on too quickly. This typically results in the virus flaring up and setting the athlete back a few days. In our experience we’ve found it’s better to have 7 out of 10 days at 100% than to have 9 out of 10 days at 50%. Get healthy first, then get back to training.
Build in to Training – Once your back to healthy and in to training, pace yourself through the first few workouts and build back up in to training load. Your body just got done working overtime fighting off an internal enemy, it needs some time to shift gears too! Don’t expect your all time best power numbers and be patient as your body adapts back to the stresses of training. Getting out there is always better than doing nothing and any progress is positive progress. Work with your coach to closely monitor resuming your training and be thankful the cold is gone!
Keep Up the Good Habits – Now that you’re healthy again, it doesn’t mean the risks of getting sick again are gone! Use your good habits we talked about here when it comes to sleep, hydration, nutrition and cold prevention to minimize the risk of a repeat illness! If you could do all those little things while you were under the stress of being sick, then doing it when you’re healthy should be a breeze! The smallest things really can make all the difference!
Remember, these are just our tips to handling a cold that we’ve accumulated over decades of training through cold and flu season. Always consult your physician with any questions or concerns about your illness. Especially for symptoms lasting more than 10 days as this may the be sign of a more serious underlying issue.