I used to feel guilty for taking any time off when I was feeling sick
I think a lot of endurance athletes think this way as well. We get so caught up in constantly pushing past pain and not letting anything slow us down, but sometimes, even when it is the most inconvenient timing ever, you need to listen to your body and slooow it down. I used to have it in my head that the best triathletes in the sport would never let something like a cold slow them down and would just push through it. Now that I've trained with and talked to some of the best I can tell you I couldn't have been further from the truth.
What I have learned through experience and other athlete's experiences is to shut it down at the first signs of sickness and sleep your way through it. In general, physical activity boosts the immune system and protects you from getting as many colds throughout the year. In contrast, training more while sick lowers your immune system even further and just makes the sickness a lot more intense and longer in duration. Sleep has the opposite effect of boosting your immune system and letting your body dedicate its energy toward battling the infection.
The neck up rule
The question I always found myself in was, "When should I return to training as I start to feel better?" This is a hard threshold to find and everyone is different when listening to their body and if it is ready to start working out again. Generally, a pretty accepted rule is the neck up rule. This rule states what when all of the symptoms take place above the neck, then you should be OK to return to exercise. In my personal experience, I have found this rule to be pretty effective, although if I still feel fatigued in anyway, I continue to rest or take it very, very easy with something like an easy spin on the bike or a casual swim if the water doesn't irritate my sinuses and throat too much.
Additional steps to getting healthy fast
Being sick sucks. There's no doubt about it. Try and enjoy your forced rest! Use the time to foam roll, watch some movies that you have wanted to see, read some books, and as an excuse to be lazy!
Jake is a triathlete and coach with a passion for travel and everything triathlon. He loves sharing his knowledge and experiences with others.
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