Coming Back From Getting Sick: A Coach's Perspective

Getting sick is never fun. Runny nose, congestion, muscle aches, and feeling run down are just a handful of the miserable symptoms of cold and flu season. The good news is there are plenty of things we can do by taking a proactive approach to strengthening our immune system and staying healthy. Both the University of Maryland Medical System and the Cleveland Clinic stress the importance of diet and exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, quality sleep, and the benefit of supplements, like vitamin D, vitamin A, zinc and selenium. But even with the best practices in place, sometimes sickness can still occur.

As athletes, when we get sick, it is important to take at least one day off and rest to give our body a chance to fight infection. The Mayo Clinic recommends getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids to stay hydrated, keeping the air moist, and washing hands frequently. Dr. Edward Laskowski, M.D. and co-director of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center, advises to refrain from exercising when symptoms are “below the neck,” like chest congestion, a hacking cough, a fever, muscle aches or fatigue.

As symptoms begin to subside, and one starts to feel better and up to training, it is important to take a gradual approach and to listen to your body. If you are unsure whether or not you are healthy enough to exercise then check with your doctor. Although there will be some decrease in muscle strength, a slight amount of muscle atrophy, and a loss of mitochondrial adaptations with time off, you will be able to retrain and regain your strength and fitness in a relatively short amount of time by starting with a light amount of training stress and gradually increasing it consistently over time.

Below is sample one week protocol for a gradual return to training after recovering from illness:

  • Day 1
    • Cycling: The Frozen Road
      • Duration: 25m
      • TSS: 8
      • IF: 0.44
      • Active Recovery
    • Yoga: Super Easy Stretch Routine I
      • Duration: 15m
      • Beginner
      • Flexibility
  • Day 2
    • Cycling: Thursday Fields
      • Duration: 20m
      • TSS: 7
      • IF: 0.45
      • Active Recovery
    • Strength: Full Body 01
      • Duration: 12m
      • Basic
      • Full Body
  • Day 3
    • Cycling: Recharger
      • Duration: 30m
      • TSS: 20
      • IF: 0.63
      • Active Recovery
    • Yoga: Super Easy Stretch Routine II
      • Duration: 15m
      • Beginner
      • Flexibility
  • Day 4
    • Cycling: Wolfpack Insider: Tour Columbia
      • Duration: 20m
      • TSS: 7
      • IF: 0.45
    • Strength: Full Body 02
      • Duration: 12m
      • Basic
      • Full Body
  • Day 5
    • Cycling: The Cure
      • Duration: 29m
      • TSS: 44
      • IF: 0.94
      • Mixed
    • Yoga: Recovery Booster
      • Duration: 14m
      • Beginner
      • Active Recovery
  • Day 6
    • Cycling: Across the Mountains
      • Duration: 38m
      • TSS: 13
      • IF: 0.45
      • Active Recovery
    • Yoga: Post-Workout Cool-Down
      • Duration: 15m
      • Beginner
      • Active Recovery
  • Day 7
    • Yoga: Shake Off the Day
      • Duration: 14m
      • Beginner
      • Active Recovery

I hope this protocol helps. Again, this is just a suggestion of a sample training week to transition from being off due to cold or flu, to help get you back to training. What strategies or solutions have or have not worked for you when returning to training after getting sick? Let us know, and please share your sources and citations. Wishing happiness and health to all this new year.

Happy Training,

Coach Corey

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Followed by a nasty flu (fever, coughing, the whole deal), I went on and tried no other than Fight Club. 23 miserable minutes passed till I cracked, threw the towel and realized this was a far fetched tryout.
A day passed and this post released. Wish I was reading if 12 hours sooner. Could have saved me an epic fail.

Thank you coach !

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Thank you, very useful. :+1:

Bookmarking this one for when I need it in future.

edit: ooh, the irony… I just tested positive for Covid. I get to use this schedule sooner than I’d hoped.

A recovery guide for covid would be an idea.
My experience was immense, crushing fatigue and breathing problems for weeks.
Four days after showing symptoms I tried an easy 40min spin. I have honestly never felt so ill.
I’d say it took nearly 6 weeks before I could raise the intensity to anything like I wanted.

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Each individual case of that nasty virus is INDIVIDUAL. Some will get nothing more than an intense cold, some will end up like you and I. It took me weeks before I felt “normal” again. The key is to really lower your intensity or even get off the bike/run/swim for a week or more. If you are afraid of losing fitness, you’ve been there and, with time, you’ll be back. The best thing is to let your body heal from the attack it just had and to return SLOWLY to your previous levels. Too much, too fast, and you may end up even worse than you were during your illness.

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Sometimes, we touch the stove to learn that it is hot. Hop on the gentle and gradual protocol to return to training, and you will be crushing Fight Club in no time :wink:

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Covid is such a b!tch. To me 6 weeks recovery period sounds torture, then again, there’s hundreds of thousands of people who would gladly have accepted a 6 weeks recovery period…

I’ve just tested negative after a very short spell with hardly any symptoms thanks to vaccines and low viral load. I tried “Tour Columbia” today as a very careful start and will try “Ill Vechio Saggio” tomorrow. So far no issues, but don’t want to mess it up.

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Video from GCN definitely worth a watch:-

After COVID GCN

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