Am I on track?

Am I on track?

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Sick - to train or not to train?

One of the more common questions heard around the cycling traps is - "do I ride when I'm sick?" This has been particularly relevant to me this week - I had a cracker of a head cold last weekend, and I was hesitant to get back on the bike too quickly.

First of all, let's keep in mind where I'm coming from. I am - literally and metaphorically - a C Grade Cyclist. So my advice isn't aimed at someone in the ProTour, or even an A-grader who has a coach that guides them to one or two peak races a season. My perspective about sickness and training is all about your average weekend warrior, who also has a day job and a family to come home to at night.

So - my general rule of thumb is "leave the bike in the garage". There are a few good reasons for this:

1. You can extend the length of your sickness. Training obviously puts your body under stress. A sick body is already under stress, and the training simply knocks out some further defences against the illness. By training on, a week-long head cold can turn into a month-long general illness and fatigue.

2. Your training will be sub-optimal. Sure, you can knock out the mileage and intervals (or whatever) that you or your coach have programmed for yourself. But you will not be able to hit your usual performance marks. Your body will be speed & effort limited by the sickness, meaning your legs will not be able to work as hard. 

So these two reasons alone should be enough to put you off training - you won't be able to train properly anyway, plus you'll just extend your sickness time.  Instead of being 1-week behind in your preparation, you'll end up more like a month (or more!) behind.

3. You could permanently damage yourself. OK - this is more serious, and won't happen to everybody. But if you push yourself hard while sick, you can really hurt your insides. Your heart - already under pressure, beating at a higher rate to cope with the sickness - will be asked to work even harder while you train. Your lungs too, which are probably gunked up, will be struggling to cope with the respiration workload. If you are unlucky, permanent damage to these organs can result. And that's a lot worse than missing a couple of weeks of training...

Have I scared you yet? That's not the idea, of course. But the key is to change your mindset. Often people think that they are 'tough' for pushing through with their training while sick, and it puts them ahead of the pack. Ironically, the opposite occurs - it often puts them in much worse shape than the sensible cyclist who takes the week off and rests up. 

So when do you get back on the bike? Do you have to wait until you are 100% better and sickness free?

Personally, I'll get back on the bike when I'm almost better. I find if I take it very easy - just cruisy, low heart-rate effort, and leaving the bike in the small chainring - it actually assists with the final recovery from the illness. For me, I think it "gets everything moving again". But I must stress the super-cruisy effort though - its not 'training', just rolling the legs over.

In summary - if you are sick, rest!! Pushing yourself back too early will have the opposite effect you intend. Resting up and getting better will have you riding more strongly in the long run.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

August 2011 Review

As part of “keeping myself honest” and tracking my progress as I return from injury, my plan is to do a ‘quick monthly summary’ of what I’ve done on the bike, any improvements or regressions, my plan for the month ahead, plus a weigh-in.

This is the first of those monthly summaries – my August review.

Mileage: 135km
Weigh-in: 89kg.

The best I can say is that I was “back on the bike”, which I discussed previously. Rides were confined to a few cycle-commutes. There could have been more, but plenty of rainy weather and a nagging cough meant I opted out of a few chances to ride.

Good news is that I did drop 1kg of weight, and am now out of my brief flirtation with the ‘nineties’ and am down to 89kg. Whilst the rides would have helped that, its probably mainly due to being a bit more disciplined with snacking at work.

I also bought a few bits and pieces to have me ready to go equipment wise. Two lights were purchased from Cell Bikes - a “Smart super-flash” red rear light (to replace the one broken in the accident 10 months ago), and a “Bike Rider Nitestar” 900 lumen LED light. I also bought a couple of pairs of Route7 Elite bib-knicks. Reviews for all of these will be posted up after I’ve racked up some good use from them all.

So what’s ahead for September?

The main plan is to bed down some regular riding habits. I’m still avoiding riding two days in a row, so as to protect the legs from injury – given my cycle-commute is just over an hour each-way, I figure the day off between each one is warranted at this early stage of the return. The goal will be to ride Mon-Wed-Fri, which will work out to roughly 135km/week.

I’m also going to christen the month “small ring September”. I’ll be keeping the chain on the small chainring all month, to avoid the temptation to push myself too hard too soon. September is all about slowly rebuilding an aerobic base, and I figure keeping it ‘easy’ is the best way to go. There are enough hills on my commute (eg. the Gateway bridge, Queensport Rd, and the rolling hills of Creek Rd) to keep me honest and ensure I don’t slack off!!

I think that covers it off!! Let’s all hope that the weather behaves itself so that we can all make the most of some beautiful spring weather…