Tuesday, February 18, 2014


In my previous blog I spoke about being Walloped by Winter and what to do about it. The Winter season is also when Cold and Flu season peak. I'm not sure about you, but for me, I am typically felled by one garden-variety head-cold each winter. Seems par-for the course.

For endurance sports athletes, it presents a bit of a challenge. How do you beat the cold, and get back to normal ASAP? There is that gnawing worry about the down-time and the lost fitness.

Years ago, when I was much younger and perhaps not as wise, I used to push things and not listen to my body. I would ignore the early signs of the cold coming on - the body aches, the weakness, the head or chest congestion. Then it would hit in all it's fury - down for a few days, but then I would rush the come back, and the cold would then drag on for sometime with remnant symptoms hanging around for weeks.

Two events changed my views on getting sick in this way.

One time before my biggest triathlon race of the season, I came down with a head-cold just over a week out from the race. It was a doozy - sent me to bed for a few days. I was then wrestling with what to do in the run-up to the race. I chose to do nothing - no training at all. All tolled, when I toed the starting line, I had done no training for a full week. I did not feel that great physically, but that race ended up being one of my best races of the year! The one week sick-with-a-cold taper in full-effect! Lesson: A week of resting and recovery from a cold, does not impact your fitness.

The other event was more sinister. I came down with a really bad chest cold. It was very bad. I thought I had recovered and I jumped right back into training at a high level. I had a relapse, that morphed into full-blown pneumonia. This really knocked me out. Close to being hospitalized. Had to take 3 weeks off work. Two of which were spent at home in bed.

Follow-up x-rays and testing discovered that I had done some permanent damage to my lungs - perhaps losing as much as 25% of my absolute, lung capacity. Disturbing news for an endurance athlete. However, I was advised that the lungs can over-compensate and some of this 25% deficit could be taken back and the loss not noticeable.

Lesson here - listen to the body. Take the time to recover fully, before resuming heavy training!

In summary - when you get sick with a head or chest cold, just take the time to fully recover. Recent, studies have shown that despite what all the cold-medication companies tell you, nothing that you can take will make the cold go away any quicker. The OTC drugs, just make some of the symptoms easier to cope with. In short - rest and relaxation and letting the body fight and deal with the infection as best as it can,  is the best thing to do, and for the endurance sports athlete that means stopping training until you are 100% recovered and ready to go. When you get those early symptoms - the weakness, the body aches etc . . just shut it down and get as much rest as you can. Help your body help, itself!

On the defense front - the old fashioned way of frequently washing your hands, has been proven to be the best defense from getting sick in the first place. It's far better and more effective than many rumored methods that people talk about. Many of the more popular defense methods - over-dosing on Vitamin-C,  taking echinacea etc . . have proven to have little to no effect on cold prevention! Eat a healthy and well balanced diet, and you should have all the natural disease prevention and immunity that you'll ever get. Also, make sure you are getting enough sleep. Recent research has concluded that sleep, is the #1 recovery tool for your body.

Again - wash your hands. And if you do get sick, don't panic. Just take the down-time to rest up a recover well. Know that under normal circumstances your garden-variety head or chest cold runs it's course in a week to 10 days, and there is really not much you can do about that other than doing nothing at all!

Have you been sick this winter? How did it go?

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