We’ve all been there, sick on the couch mid training block, with a big race just a few weeks away. Our instinct as athletes is to panic train once we’re feeling well enough to get going again, but often this can dig us deeper into the hole. So, what is the best way to return to training after illness?
The easy answer is, it depends! Depending on the type of illness we have. Let’s use the standard cold I had recently, which featured all the usual symptoms such as a chesty cough, blocked nose, and an achy body. I had racing in 3 weeks time from getting ill, and as you can imagine, I was worried. I’d already been ill this year and had to withdraw from the Volcat BTT stage race, as I wasn’t recovered in time. This time I wasn’t going to make the same mistake.
I needed 4 full days off from training before I even felt like I could get back on the bike. Then, I didn’t jump straight back into training. It was slow, so slow I was frustrated. While it would have been easy to do more, my body was still recovering and adding an extra training load on top would not have been a good idea.
It took two weeks of reduced volume and intensity before I had a normal (for me) week of training. This left me with a week before a 7-hour MTB race. In this week we introduced one high intensity workout, which went well. And, if it hadn’t gone well, I may have reassessed whether I was ready for such a difficult event. In the same week I also completed a longer ride with some tempo included, I finished this ride feeling strong. This told me I was recovered enough to race.
We packed the van and headed up to Glentress 7s in the knowledge, while the build-up hadn’t been perfect, I was heathy enough to race. The race went well, coming in second place. And while my race strategy wasn’t as aggressive as if I’d had a perfect run-up, being sensible and listening to my body allowed me to get to my race in good shape.