Being sick SUCKS! Not only do you feel terrible, but you’re pale with an irritated looking nose that would give Rudolph a run for his money. What’s more is that you’re not sleeping well because you’re a super congested mouth-breather with all kinds of weird sounds emanating from your body. It’s awful and it’s what I’ve been dealing with only 13 weeks out from competing again.
I didn’t get sick once during my first prep, in fact I didn’t get a single physical ailment during that entire 8 month process, even when those closest to me were sniffling, coughing and who knows what else. This time though, no such luck. Maybe it’s just me, but I always find that anytime I make a resolve or decide to take on something new I get hit with some sort of massive roadblock. Now the hippies out there might say that the universe is just testing me and how much I truly want to achieve this, but I think it’s all just crap! As my father used to say “Shit happens”, he also used to say that he wants a house in Florida anytime I would complain and say “I want (fill in the blank)”, but I digress. This is the reality and whether we like it or not, at some point every single one of us will be side tracked in our health, fitness or weight loss goals by a massive cold or flu.
It is incredibly challenging to stay on track when you’re not 100%. The really bad part about being sick is the lethargic, weak feeling you get from your body trying to fight it. All of your usual good energy is completely focused on getting you better, making hitting the gym seem like an impossible task.
So what do you do?
The average cold lasts around 3 to 5 days, but if you’re not getting enough rest and allowing your body to recover, it’ll take even longer. So your number one priority here needs to be getting lots of rest. Stay home, lie down and stretch out in your jammies for a while. Go to bed earlier than usual and get some sleep. I had one night where I went to bed at 10pm and woke up 9:30am only because my husband came in to check on me; I was in a deep sleep the entire time, we’re talking almost 12 hours of shuteye! That’s what I needed so that’s what I allowed myself to do. As hard as it is for me to sit still and not be taking care of something around the house, I put off my usual chores and set aside my to do list in order to get better. If you struggle with this as much as I do and get anxious by just sitting in front of the tv for a few minutes without doing something “productive” then just remind yourself that it’s only temporary and in a few days you’ll be back to your busy self.
The biggest question many fitness and health enthusiasts have is: should you continue your workouts? Taking a unscheduled rest day can be the way to go as you’ll get the extra rest for your body, but some have said that they actually feel better after a workout. So it’s a tough call, but ultimately it comes down to your choice. If you’re really weak and can barely walk from the couch to the kitchen (been there!) then take an extra rest day. If you’re still able to function normally and walk around without getting winded, then try to stick with your workout routine, but don’t expect to be able to lift as heavy as when you’re 100%. Now in my case I decided to omit my usual cardio because I was too congested and knew that I just didn’t have the lung capacity to run the stairs as per usual. I did however manage to get my weight training in each day, but I lowered the weight for pretty much every exercise so that I was still getting in a challenging workout without risking injury or overdoing it. After each gym session I felt good, but that would only last for about an hour before I would start to feel tired and rundown. Ultimately though go with what you feel comfortable with, but make sure that you’re being honest with yourself and not using the sniffles as an excuse to forgo physical activity and become a total couch potato.
Nutrition is also a really tough call to make. Some people don’t eat when they’re sick (not me at all!) while others will go for comfort foods instead, which may not be nutritionally sound for you either. The food that you eat is the one thing that is always in your control; you are the one feeding yourself and nourishing yourself or lack there of so try your best to make the right choices during these few sick days. A few days off of your regiment can be enough to cause fat gain and muscle deterioration; it really doesn’t take much to throw you off. Focus eating nutrient dense foods such as produce and lean proteins. I took the usual structure of almost each meal and would turn it into something hearty and comforting like soup. What would usually be rice and beans with sautéed veg became a chunky bean soup in a vegetable broth. Protein shakes with a side of fruit were now blended into a fruit smoothie with added antioxidants like ginger, cinnamon and turmeric. And my typical pre-workout donuts became a steaming hot bowl of oatmeal. Although what I really wanted was Ezekiel bread with some Earth Balance, I still managed to keep my diet on track and so can you. Don’t fall prey to the prepackaged canned or frozen meals, but instead eat well so that your body will have all that it needs to get better.
Another important factor to take into consideration is supplementation. You might be thinking that extra vitamin C is the way to go, but it actually only helps at preventing colds and has no impact on how your body can fight a cold, so don’t bother taking any extra if you’re already fighting something. A couple of good options are adding a few extra scoops of BCAAs throughout the day as this helps with muscle protein synthesis and preventing muscle loss if you’re not getting enough nutrition to support your body. Glutamine is also a great option as this non-essential amino acid helps support the body’s natural recovery process.
As I write this I’m on my couch wrapped up in my bathrobe binge watching Seinfeld. It’s hard when you’re used to being on the go all the time, but it’s also an opportunity to slow down for a little while too. Take a hot bath, drink lots of water and herbal teas in order to soothe yourself back to recovery. Hang in there and 3 to 5 days you’ll be back on track and raring to go!
Start It, Finish It