No matter how talented an athlete is, illness is always a threat to their performance. There are a lot of questions around this topic, especially since it is for the most part out of our direct control. We can’t decide whether or not we catch something, but we can control how we react to it. So, what if I get sick?
The first and most important thing is to keep your head about this! Everyone gets sick from time to time – it’s normal, and you will recover! Remember that you are an athlete. You should be getting a good night’s sleep already, and eating a balanced diet. If you weren’t doing these things, you probably wouldn’t be here right now – and they aid your recovery from illness the same way they aid your recovery from a hard week of workouts.
Can I Keep Working Out?
There is a bit of traditional wisdom that I’ve heard tossed around on this topic, and I’ve always found it be pretty accurate: if all of your symptoms are above your throat, then keep working, but if they are below your throat, take time off to recover. So for example, if you have a slight cough and nothing else, your training and recovery won’t be impacted much if at all. If you have something like a chest cold, or nausea, take time off until those symptoms are gone.
Is There Anything I Can Do To Speed Up Recovery?
There are a few basic steps you can take, once sick, that will help you get back on track more quickly. Keep in mind that I am a coach, not a doctor.
First, as mentioned previously, good sleep is important.
Keys to Good Sleep
- 7 or more hours
- don’t eat anything heavy (think Italian subs, pizza, ect) during the hour or so before you go to bed
- make your sleeping space as dark as possible
- turn off or put away screens before bed, especially your phone
- drinking alcohol before bed will prevent you from falling into deep sleep
Sleep is easier to get right than many people think, but it conflicts with a lot of things in our world today. We’re glued to our phones until the minute we fall asleep, and this is very disruptive to getting a good night’s rest! One way to do this is to set your phone someplace away from the bed – for example, I have my charger on my desk, and that’s where I set my phone when I get ready for bed. Not only do I wake up better (because I have to get out of bed to turn off my alarm), I get better sleep because I’m not laying in bed on my phone. If you want more information, here are a few more tips from the Mayo Clinic on sleep.
Your body needs the right fuels to effectively fight off illness. Fruits and vegetables are especially important! If you have a hard time getting enough, try drinking an 8oz glass of fruit juice once per day until you are recovered. You can also never go wrong with chicken noodle soup, which is both inexpensive and effective!
If you are under the weather, stay away from alcohol. Processing it uses up your body’s resources, and it can interfere with sleep. There’s nothing wrong with having fun once in awhile, but if you are trying to recover, it’s better to wait until you are feeling better.
Let me preface this by saying, once again, that I am not a doctor. That said, there are some vitamins and minerals that people can be unknowingly deficient in – and that can have a big impact on your immune health. The most important ones are Vitamin D and Zinc. Both are inexpensive and easy to find. Vitamin C is the most well-known immune booster, but if you have a decent amount of fruit in your diet or are drinking the fruit juice mentioned earlier, then you probably don’t need to supplement it. For more information on immune system supplements, check out this article.
Bringing all of this together, getting sick is not the end of the world or even that big of a speed bump in your training – if you handle it well. Don’t panic, sleep well, eat a good and balanced diet, and if you have any gaps in your diet, you can use supplements to help cover them. If all of your symptoms are above the throat, it’s okay to keep working out.
Take good care of your body, and it will take good care of you!