Sick?

YOU’RE SICK!

It happens to us all. Right when we don’t expect it and usually at the worst possible time. BOO! I’m sitting here on day 2 of some darn virus which has kept me away from a GORGEOUS day. I’m so sad. I should be outside riding my bike with the kids, going for a family hike, getting out for a run or… better yet… ALL of that. But no. I’m stuck here typing. Well, boo for me, good for you!

So WHY did you get sick?

Let’s take a minute and discuss some of the things that are involved with you getting sick. In no particular order.

Environmental

The big thing I’ve learned over the last 12 years (which is how long I’ve had kids) is that kids are little germ factories. Good golly it’s insane. Add to that whenever the temps drop down (usually below 40) and then back up… there will be a wave of colds, flus, sniffles, etc. And the kids are the ones who will spread this stuff and then from them, the adults get it and spread it. It’s like wildfire. You can set your freakin calendar to it. Cold snap, wait for it…. BOOM! MARTIAN DEATH PLAGUE! Even if you have a healthy immune system you can still get slowed down as your body kicks into gear to destroy the invaders. All you can do is support that effort with appropriate nutrition, hydration, and rest.

Hygiene

This sounds gross, and it is, but WASH YOUR FREAKIN HANDS PEOPLE!  Ever since I’ve become athletic I have really started to watch what I touch. I usually use a shoulder on doors, when possible. Leaving the bathroom, I wash my hands and use my towel to open the handle (because MANY guys do not wash their hands… regardless of what business they just did) and I wipe the handle down. I don’t use handrails. I wash my hands a lot while in “public”. The less sick people out there, the less likely they will infect ME. I don’t care if those stoopidheads don’t care about being sick, but I do.

Cough into you elbow – not your hands. Wash it! I remember when I was kid I was told to cover with my hands… how gross! Then you just place the germs on everything you touch! Gross!

Wounds

This one many of us nutjobs forget (I’m guilty of this). When you have an open wound – cuts, scratches, etc. that is a vector for illness. So if you go swim in some nasty lake or river, ride your bike through a creek, or even get splashed by a puddle in the street… an open wound is a vector in which you might get sick… so just sayin’… cover it and take care of it. Scratches heal fast for me, but there is still a day or two when you are at risk.

Drugs

Some medicines you take increase your risk of geting sick. Read the label. Talk to your Doctor if it’s happening to see if you can either change the drug OR do more to prevent it. Unfortunately, most Doctors are not skilled in the art of “supporting” your immune system in these cases, but start there. A good sports coach, nurtitionist, etc can often help here too.

Overtraining

This is a BIG one that impacts many who are just starting, super serious about athletics, or into endurance athletics (events over 90minutes).

My first year of tri, I got sick about every 3-4 weeks. Why? I was pushing my body WAY beyond what it was ready for. I’d get sick, be forced to rest several days, then I’d pick it up and repeat. Totally dumb. That’s why I got a coach, because apparently I’m not wise enough to pull myself back. (NOTE: It worked)

The super serious folk – too many speed days. Simple as that. You will drive your immune system down and you’ll pick up some bug that you otherwise could have fought off. Sure 2 days of speedwork every week sounds great – but it’ll grind you down.

The endurance athletes – too much duration. You cannot ramp up from 3 hours/wk to 10 hours/wk and not expect to pay a price. Or the Ironman folk who do 8 hours/wk and then try to ramp up to 24 hrs/wk in a short time. Really? come on folks. Your body isn’t ready for it.  Another problem is if you try to add too much speed work when you are already at your limits of endurance.

Stress

What? Stress is normal right? In moderation. The proper application of stresses is a good thing. It pushes you forward. But too much will weaken you and that makes you vulnerable. You have to learn the difference. You’ll get it wrong a few times, it’s ok. Just need to recognize it (I rarely do, I’m a big tough guy not effected by this stuff… hahahhahaha). During high stress periods at work, at home, etc you have to consider that in your workouts.  You might be doing very little working out but still push yourself into overtraining. It’s impossible to measure and easy to deny, but that doesn’t change ANYTHING. It can still get you sick.

Diet

If you are not drinking enough (water people… water… beer and coffee do not count!) your body cannot process what’s going on. Me? I drink about 3-4 Liters/day. Yeah, I pee a lot. (It also helps prevent kidney stones)

If you are not eating enough you are stressing your body. What is enough? Well, for most people it is a simple matter of calories because if you are starving or binging you’re messing with your immune system. Bringing in enough calories to support your metabolic resting rate + your activities for the day.  If you need to gain weight, you should get 500 extra calories in per day. If you want to lose weight you need to eat 500 calories LESS. MORE IS NOT BETTER in both cases. Trust me. That’s another topic. Also, Doritos don’t count as real food people. Calories, yes, but not food. The calories in – calories out concept is good for “most” people but it assumes you’re eating mostly “real” food. The more processed, artificial, nasty crap then we get into a whole other discussion because calories in – calories out suddenly doesn’t work. Another blog for another day…..

Supplements are important. Now, I don’t work at GNC and I don’t sell supplements, but they have a place in most people’s world because WE EAT CRAP in America. So we need to augment it while we clean up our diets to keep our immune system running in top shape. A multi-vitamin is the minimum. Some go beyond that into sport-specific vitamins (I do, for example, I have one in AM and a different one in PM). Some go into some amino acids and other things that THEIR body needs. I, for example, find my body really responds to a couple of things. I’m not going to list them here, because it’s not one size fits all. But remember, most of it you’re peeing out. Do it with purpose or don’t bother!

STRESS * DIET *  (SPEED WORK + EXERCISE TIME) = YOUR LIMITS

WHAT should I do when sick?

CAVEAT: I am not a Doctor. I’m not a coach. I’m just some voice in your head on the internets. So come on, if you’re really sick, maybe you should see a freakin’ doctor instead of surfing the web? Just Sayin…

With that out of the way, here’s what I have learned over the years… maybe it help guide you. I get asked this a lot and see a lot of conversations about “What workouts can I do when sick”.

If you’re not athletic, you know when you’re sick. Your immediate response is to stay home (hopefully) and rest on the couch for a few days until it passes. Maybe take some drugs to make it feel not so worse. It will pass. I challenge that. Here’s some things you can do to SPEED your recovery…

  1. REST. I know, you had this one covered. But by this I mean SLEEPING extra. Turn off the freakin’ TV and go to bed early. So what if you get up early, just go to bed. Force yourself to stay there.  Nap.  Even if you’re not a nap person (which I don’t get) turn off all devices and lay there for 30-60-90minutes. It will help your body.
  2. DRINK. Lots of fluids.
  3. EAT. You need food. Whatever you can handle, even if it is comfort food. This is not the time to binge… nor is it the time to diet. Especially diet. No. Time for that when you are healthy.
  4. Supplements. There’s all sorts of stuff out there, you decide yourself if Zinc stuff or vitamin C is for you – but your body may need some reinforcements, so at least have a multivitamin.  Give your body the tools it needs to fight it. I have a whole series of things that I use during “sick time” – build yours. Better yet… spend this time making really healthy food – because it has that same stuff in it!!
  5. If you have a fever. STAY HOME. This is when you’re contagious – please, for MY sake (and it IS all about me), stay away from me.  24 hours after your fever is GONE, you can come out. Until then, I’m placing you into isolation.
  6. If you don’t feel too bad, get some activity. That could be a walk around the block. Real slow. Nothing that really raises your heart rate. The idea here is an active person will actually boost their immune system by being slightly active. Now, if you cannot even lift your arm to drink a glass – really? You’re not ready. You have to be BORED and RESTLESS and then it’s time to MOVE the body. But nothing much or you’ll be back to the couch in no time.

For those of you who are not athletic, you may not understand this. So let me show you the mind of an athletic person  (aka nutjob right?)

  1. these folks KNOW that to get better – faster – go longer you must exercise consistently. That’s more important than anything.
  2. these folks THINK that missing a workout is the same as COMPLETE AND TOTAL failure. It’s dumb, it’s emotional, but that is what they see
  3. these folks are in DENIAL about being sick. So they’ve actually been working out while sick. It just wasn’t “Sick Enough” – whatever that is.

So the problem is they keep going after the signs are obvious to everyone else. You know, they are the track with a box of Kleenex – mostly used. And they have to take Sudafed and Dayquil just to breath.  EVERYONE ELSE sees they are sick. They instead think “Wow, I’m slow today”.

DUH

Ok, for the athletic folks – here is a HOW TO GUIDE

  • REST. I know, you had this one covered. But by this I mean SLEEPING extra. Turn off the freakin’ TV and go to bed early. So what if you get up early, just go to bed. Force yourself to stay there.  Nap.  Even if you’re not a nap person (which I don’t get) turn off all devices and lay there for 30-60-90minutes. It will help your body.
  • DRINK. Lots of fluids.
  • EAT. You need food. Whatever you can handle, even if it is comfort food. This is not the time to binge… nor is it the time to diet. Especially diet. No. Time for that when you are healthy.
  • Supplements. There’s all sorts of stuff out there, you decide yourself if Zinc stuff or vitamin C is for you – but your body may need some reinforcements, so at least have a multivitamin.  Give your body the tools it needs to fight it. I have a whole series of things that I use during “sick time” – build yours. Better yet… spend this time making really healthy food – because it has that same stuff in it!!
  • If you have a fever. STAY HOME. This is when you’re contagious – please, for MY sake (and it IS all about me), stay away from me.  24 hours after your fever is GONE, you can come out. Until then, I’m placing you into isolation.
  • If you don’t feel too bad, get some activity. That could be a walk around the block. Real slow. Nothing that really raises your heart rate. The idea here is an active person will actually boost their immune system by being slightly active. Now, if you cannot even lift your arm to drink a glass – really? You’re not ready. You have to be BORED and RESTLESS and then it’s time to MOVE the body. But nothing much or you’ll be back to the couch in no time.
  • If you find your easy activity made you tired, IT IS TOO SOON. Wait a day, retry. If it did not make you tired, then it’s time to ramp it up with an easy workout. If you’re a runner, go for an easy run. A cyclist, go for a ride. I find going for a ride is best. I can control the intensity and it’s easy on the body. Don’t go long. See how you feel hours later. If you’re tired, IT IS TOO SOON. See the pattern here? Take a FEW days to ramp back up.

Exercise and types of sickness

Not all sickness is created equal. Here’s some thoughts…

  • Fever – VIRUS – Sorry but this is a deal buster. You are grounded. Done. Nothing. Sit on your butt. Why? Because certain kinds of viruses can actually GET WORSE if you exercise. And in some cases, can cause life long problems. There’s certain viri which can attack the heart. Don’t go there.
  • Sniffles – COLD – As long as it’s not in the lungs – you are clear to exercise. Maybe it’s allergies or a cold, but it’s the same result – you can workout, just avoid speed work and high intensity.
  • Nasal Drop – COLD – As long as it’s not in the lungs – you are clear to exercise.
  • Cough – If there is crap in your lungs or if you keep coughing a dry cough – light activity. Walking for example, would be ok. But if you get tired because of it? Well… DEAL BUSTER you’re grounded. More likely this is just the early stage of something worse or the end stage and you’re about to get better.
  • Muscle Aches – If you know WHY you ache (i.e. a workout) then carry on. But if it’s in random spots or all over – DEAL BUSTER – you likely have a VIRUS and it’s just getting started.
  • Fatigue – this is simple. REST. Excercise will give you more energy from day to day and if you’re tired, you need to listen to your body. Skipping a workout is smart. Let it go! Tomorrow you’re going to feel great and you’ll do awesome OR you’ll get some other symptoms, because really you were sick and just noticed it…
  • Low Heat Rate (HR) – I hate this one. I feel FINE (so I think) and I just CANNOT raise my heart rate up to where it should be. This means I’m SICK and in denial. Time to scale back and/or just bag it and take a rest day.
  • High Heart Rate (HR) – this one is obvious – you’re sick. Likely a VIRUS. Rest is a good call or pull the workout way back in intensity.
  • Tummy Problems – I love how people call this “tummy problems” which it’s not your tummy that’s causing you problems. It’s the fact you have loose stools and/or have to go all the time. This is clear, you have something going on. However, this  alone is not a deal buster. So long as you’re not going to have an accident… this is usually ok to exercise – but keep the intensity down because a high intensity workout is going to make this worse… and nothing like not having a bathroom and needing it. The neighbors will thank you for staying home.

Everyone responds differently to illness. We do everything we can to avoid it, but the fact is we all fall prey. This year has been a rough one for me. The weather in Chicago has been goofy up and down all year and few major freezes. So lots of illness going around. Worst year in memory. Last year, however, I didn’t get sick all year. My point is… you cannot always control it.

What you can control is how you respond to it. Be smart people.

Post your tips and comments below on what works for you! No ads please or I’ll nuke the comment!

Be well!

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