Dealing with illness as a cyclist

Great I am sick now what?

I promise you that every athlete has been in your shoes. There has been a nasty bug/flu going around that just zaps energy right now. Which had me thinking about this topic after my family and several athletes I coach came down with the crud.

Illness is not uncommon when you are pushing your body. However there is a silver lining for trained athletes. We usually do not have the strongest symptoms of an illness and in most cases recover faster from illness. Below are some tips for dealing with an illness as an athlete. NOTE: I am not a medical professional so your mileage may vary.

First things first, have you seen your doctor recently?
It’s important to develop a relationship with your Dr. Let them know that your an endurance athlete and explain what you are trying to accomplish as an athlete. Drs can be very helpful. Just make sure to double check a Drs recommendations against WADA policies on medications if you are going to be competing.

Have you had blood work done?
Having regular blood work done can uncover lots of things an athlete would need to know before they begin to impact your health and hard earned fitness.

How is your sleep, diet and fluid intake?
Sleep for athletes is a critical component for optimal recovery!

With any illness we need to pay close attention to rest and fluids. I know that when I get to feeling bad all I want to do drink is sodas. Try and stay away from sodas and substitute with green tea and water. Do not drink any caffeinated beverage after 3-4 PM.

Illnesses can be prolonged when diet hasn’t been good to begin with. We should be eating small meals 6-7 times a day focusing on lean proteins and whole foods that are preferably organic.

Now on to the rest part. During times of wellness athletes should get 8-9 hours of sleep a night. If you have not been getting the 8-9 hours expect that once you start that it could take up to 4 days to get caught up on rest. Sleeping in on weekends will not catch you up completely.
When ill try to get 9-10 hours of sleep a day.

What are the symptoms?
Some symptoms will side line athletes and others will just slow you down.

The old cycling coach adage is if the symptoms are above the neck and there has been no fever than you can continue to train at your easiest effort. What we are talking about is allergies and head colds.

If you have a fever then stay off the bike and out of the gym until all symptoms have resolved themselves for at least 3 days and then start back easy.

If you have any other illness below the neck that did not have fever symptoms you may begin training super easy after all symptoms have dissipated. If you were vomiting or had other gastro issues take a few days to rehydrate before you begin riding again.

What about all of my fitness?

We are all going to have set backs due to illness, work and family obligations from time to time. If your set back only holds you up a week you can resume training and not go backwards in your training plan.

If you are off the bike for 2 or more weeks you should go backward in your plan 1 week for every week after 2 weeks lost to illness.

Self expectations are tough but I can tell you that if you are down a week
it will take approx 1-2 weeks to get back to feeling like your old self on the bike. If your down 2 weeks it will take 2-4 weeks.

The key here is to get better fast! Rest, fluids and quality nutrition are key to a quick recovery!

Don’t forget to GO SEE YOUR DOCTOR!

Until next time I hope you feel better and can get back to what you love, riding and racing.

Coach Rob

3 Comments on “Dealing with illness as a cyclist”

  1. hi nice one, as a cyclist that is halfway through a 6 weeks forced time off the bike by my doctors, yes cycling-assoc prostatitis, yes i am 100% behind the view we should talk to our doctors let him know what we are up to, my doctor has been off for sometime, so i had to see another one, even walking into his medical room in full cycling cloths, he missed the fact i was a cyclist, treated as a normal person, bad uti, but talking to my doctor you got cycling-assoc prostatitis

    andy off

  2. I’d be in deep trouble if I didn’t drink caffeinated beverages after 4 PM. 🙂

  3. Yeah there exceptions to every rule. Shift workers and on-call workers must do what is necessary to get the job done. Sound familiar 😉

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