I know a lot of people who have been really sick this winter. It’s funny how your Mum often says round about this time of year “there’s some nasty stuff going round out there”. Well yes there has been thanks Mum:) Since I wrote about some strategies to fight off the winter bugs that some of you have asked me to address how to return to exercise following sickness, so here goes….
Going too hard too soon, it doesn’t end well!
First and foremost, no one wins prizes for being a masochist (unless maybe you are trying to complete a special forces hell week!!). Smashing yourself straight up after sickness has begun to recede will compromise your recovery. When we’re sick our immune system is under significant stress and is doing everything in its power to work in overdrive. If we push ourselves too hard too soon when our immune system has not fully recovered you will most likely go backwards and that cough will linger, your chest won’t be cleared and it will be become more annoying that it should be.
In the drive to not lose a day’s training or the thought that you’ve lost a lot from being sick I’ve been guilty of going too hard out too fast. Predictable really of what’s going to happen. More time off training and not well enough to push 100% sooner! Thankfully I’ve learnt my lesson but I have to say that I was a slow learner on this one.
What to do exercise-wise?
Use the comeback as an opportunity – to revisit goals, do it a bit smarter, try different cross training options and ultimately bust through barriers that may have come up with staleness of a prior exercise routine.
Pick your exercise modality – perhaps you can do strength training with a mild head or chest cold but hard cardio work may be too much for your lungs to cope with.
Don’t be afraid to get really out of your comfort zone and try something more gentle like yoga – although be aware of downward dog with a blocked snoz is not ideal.
Start slow and avoid placing pressure on yourself. If you’re a daily 5km takes you X amount of time don’t be afraid to just do half of the distance or take longer to do it.
Use interval sessions with longer recovery intervals than normal to ease back into it. As you progressively feel better decrease the recovery period.
Fresh air is good for the soul so wrap up warm and get outside to feel the air and open your lungs within your own capabilities of where you’re at. Peel back the layers as you warm up and then wrap up again quickly when you finish.
Set small easily reachable goals for the first week back and enjoy the stepwise progression and associated feelings of accomplishment.
If you work out with in a group or partner be really aware of trying not to compete when returning to exercise. Whilst you may puff your chest out temporarily it’s not worth it in the end to your health.
The golden rule is to play the long game and keep the ego in check, better to have a few excessively easy days and bounce back well than be burying yourself and succumbing to illness again.
Keep the hope and keep trucking forward
I think sometimes we get sick for a reason. It’s our bodies way of trying to hold us back. To have an enforced rest to recover (even though it’s a right pain) in the busy lives we lead allows us to stop. When the time is right you need to move. Nourish yourself through exercise just take it one step at a time!