Should you or shouldn’t you?
Being sick sucks. It’s going to happen at some stage, you will be struck down with a cold or flu when you least want it and when you least expect it. At these times you have some decisions to make. Do you push through, do you rest completely, do you get some half-arsed training in? What is the right course of action?
Most CrossFitters will choose to push through. That’s how we’re built, it’s what we do best, it’s what gets us through gnarly WOD after gnarly WOD. But is it ideal behaviour training sick? Nup, not really.
Most flus will last two weeks, the first week will be a write off, that is the time to rest, rest, rest not push, push, push. Let’s give you one to two days grace during which time you’re in denial and still trying to push through your new enemy – the flu. Once those two days are out of the way and you’ve spread a few germs among your CrossFit family, this is when you realise you’re actually screwed and you start bargaining with yourself and the flu. You decide to cut back your training, still trying to push through another day or two, only to finally realise, in a state of anger, that it’s over. You’re screwed and the inevitable has finally become reality – you have to rest! You’re sore all over, your joints ache, your coughing up phlegm, your nose is running and your throat is dry and tickingly-annoying all night.
You’re sick. It’s time to surrender, sleep, rest, cut your training out completely and take the time to allow your body’s immune system to do its job.
You can’t rush a flu, you can take all the olive leaf, echinacea, vitamin C, astragalus, reishi mushrooms you like, but the flu has it’s own timeframe. The sooner you allow your body to rest, the sooner your immune system can begin the business of waging war and overcoming this bug.
My advice is to get as much rest as possible in that first week. Your first week begins from the moment you realise and accept that you are sick, from the moment you surrender and begin to rest and hydrate. The second week is when you can begin to train again, staying on top of your sleep and hydration. At this stage you’re good to train – but it should be with very low expectations and at a lower intensity than you’d ideally like. Strength work and lighter aerobic work are ideal here. This is the week to help your immune system by mobilising your body, blood and oxygen systems! It’s not the week to smash yourself back into fitness because you missed a few days last week. In the scheme of things, the period of rest when you were sick will always serve you well. It will help your body get a break, even if it was un-welcomed and un-invited.
It honestly takes more courage to rest than it does to push through training sick. I have huge respect for people willing to respect themselves. You are the only person who can protect and look after yourself. Being sick isn’t failure, it’s just part of living in the world.
I was really sick leading into 2012 Australia Regional. It was scary, I had to have four days of total rest inside two weeks out from competition. I was terrified that I wouldn’t get well, but I did get better. I wasn’t at my best by any stretch, the flu took the wind out of my sails, took the edge off of my performance at Regionals. Since that experience I have done everything I can to avoid sickness at the peak times in my competition calendar.
I have an immune boosting protocol that I follow all year, but I increase this protocol six weeks out from Regionals and the CrossFit Games to give myself some insurance against the flu.
I take Astragalus and Vit C all year. At change of season, and six weeks out from competitions, I mega dose with echinacea, olive leaf, mangosteen juice and reishi mushrooms. Additionally I make sure never to get cold or a chill post training. I get extra sleep (8-9 hours) and I make sure to keep my stress levels as low as possible. When I’m travelling overseas to compete I have a bag full of immune boosting liquids that I drip feed myself for the duration of the 24 hours I’m flying and in transit. I also drink truck loads of herbal teas (I bring the tea bags with me) and water with Vital Greens on my flights to stay super hydrated and fortified from un-welcomed bugs.
I wage an all out war to protect myself from sickness. In 2013 it worked perfectly. So many people around me got sick, but not me!
We get sick, it is somewhat avoidable, but it’s also inevitable. Do what you can to help yourself avoid flu, but if, and when you do go down, surrender and rest sooner. Don’t be a hero and keep training through, it’s embarrassing and fairly pointless. Get sick, rest, get well, move on with your life. Simple!