We have been back into training after the holiday season this past month. You can tell people are excited and little more enthusiastic during training sessions.
Something I always seem to observe this time of year is a few athletes developing with some sort of sniffle, cough, and obviously battling a virus.
Invariably, these athletes are very committed, and will show up at training sessions still wanting to follow the session as planned. This means disregarding the very clear signals their body is giving to recover.
This is what I like to call "training guilt"- the feeling of guilt that arises from having to adjust or miss training sessions due to illness. The prevailing idea is this loss of fitness will negatively effect their preparation for an upcoming event.
So what is the inevitable consequence of deciding to push through illness? The athlete will end up developing much more serious symptoms and feel ill for much longer.
As I like to say "Take a few days easy now or you will have to take a few weeks or more later."
Look, I have been guilty of this as I understand how training and being active is such an important of not only performance, but how you feel. It becomes an integral part of your healthy lifestyle, and without regular training and activity, you start to feel empty.
Let me offer an alternative solution to help you bounce back quickly when you first feel the onset of any symptoms that make you feel off. First, most often you still feel like training while at the same time feeling a little low on energy. I suggest this is your body giving you a signal and its important to listen.
Here is a 5 step process to decide what you should do:
1. Before your next training session ask yourself - “How do I feel?” Now based on your answer you can make some decisions on how to proceed with your next session:
2. Do the warm up and then see how you feel then adjust as suggested below:
3. If you feel better proceed with the session as planned
4. If you feel the same, do the first part of the main set (e.g., first 10 mins of main set) and if you don’t feel better, make the session a low stress/easy effort session. This is where a heart rate monitor can be a very helpful tool. Keep your heart rate 100 or less. If this means you have to walk, then you walk. You are just keeping your body moving and not adding any more stress.
5. If you feel worse, time to stop training (some light stretching and deep breathing exercises can help decrease stress and improve mood).
Continue doing this for any subsequent session. Once you are able to complete two days of consecutive training at this very low intensity symptom free then you know you are ready to go back into your regular training.
Skip these steps because you choose to give into "training guilt" and you guarantee a longer than necessary recovery period. Training is still a stress that your body has to respond to. So if your body is busy fighting off an illness, adding extra training stress will only slow the healing process.
This is a simple and effective way to manage your stress and help you stay consistent and get the most out of your training.
Train smart and your performance will thank you.
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