This past week I’ve not been too well. Suffering from what I think is probably Norovirus, I’ve replaced my hours on the saddle with hours on the toilet. And just like back in September, this illness has come at a time when my training plan was starting to fall perfectly into place and I was really starting to feel myself getting stronger.
It always feels unfair. Losing weight that you don’t really have is also a concern, and missing out on a weekend ride when it’s finally dry is the worst. Why does Zwift not have a “Build Me Up” training plan for our immune system?
But as rubbish as it is, and as unfair as it seems when everyone is out having a great time at the coffee shop and you’re in bed, it’s important to remember that, at some point, everybody gets sick. Literally, everybody.
If you’re feeling sorry for yourself, losing fitness in bed at the start of December when nothing really matters anyway, maybe take comfort in the thought that your rival will eventually get sick, and maybe it’ll come at a more important time (is that too nasty?).
Just sweat it out?
I was always a believer that “sweating it out” was the best way to deal with sickness. Based on absolutely no science at all, my thinking was that if my heart’s working harder then it’s going to be flushing away all of the bad stuff quicker. However, looking back, I’ve always felt dreadful after exercising when sick and it may have even prolonged my illness.
The general rule of thumb, according to WebMD, is that it’s only okay to exercise if your symptoms are above the neck; runny nose or sore throat sort of stuff. So realistically, if you are actually unwell then you probably shouldn’t be on the bike.
What’s more, there are studies that suggest that high intensity exercise can temporarily suppress immune function, which may lead to longer recovery times. It makes sense as well if you think about it. After exercising your body’s going to be working hard to repair all that muscle damage, and if it’s already fighting an illness then it’s just adding more stress.
Recovering from sickness
Being told that you shouldn’t exercise though can be quite difficult to deal with, especially when it’s your main source of fun. I usually find myself a little bit lost for things to do when I’m not able to get out on my bike. (In fact, it’s was the main reason I started writing this blog…).
However, forcing yourself into a rest may be the quickest route back to your regular routine. On top of that, there are a few other easy things you can do to give yourself the best possible chance of a swift recovery:
- Stay hydrated
- This should be number one priority because it’s much easier to become dehydrated when sick.
- Eat the right foods
- For a general list of good foods to eat when sick try this list. Or for a stomach bug, go for this one.
- Get as much sleep as you can
- In the words of leading sleep expert Matthew Walker sleep “restocks the armoury of our immune system”, so catch as many z’s as possible.
- Hot baths or showers
- They help to soothe and relax achy muscles and clear up congestion.
- Stay motivated
- I am convinced that miserable people, those that lose all hope when they’re unwell, stay ill for longer. Stay positive and motivated. Maybe read a cycling book, or plan your next few routes of Strava, or start thinking towards some future goals!
You are not the only person to ever be unwell!
Yes, dealing with sickness is horrible, and it’s usually quite boring too. But remember that nobody is immune to all types of illness, and for that reason everybody will become sick at some point. So instead of just letting it get you down, or doing yourself any more damage, focus on what you can do to quickly improve your health and look ahead to all those healthy miles to come.
And perhaps whilst I’m here, what are your top tips for getting over a stomach bug?