A week ago I developed a sore throat, which I believed to be the result of a dodgy wisdom tooth. I got a bit sceptical of this when it gradually spread to a sore chest and finally gave way to a temperature and dizziness. Of course, come the first day of my holiday (why I didnt just take time off is a whole other question – but when a front page has your name on it it’s damn hard not to be at your desk) I finally made a trip to the doctor who thumped me back down to earth with the revelation that I actually have a chest infection.
The general consensus is that any symptoms above the neck (sniffly nose etc) and you can continue moderate exercise, but no training as such – nothing about level 6 on the RPE. Anything below the neck and you are better staying away from the idea altogether. Chest infections, most certainly, are not to be messed with because if you allow them to really set in they’re pretty hard to get rid of.
I’m now dosing up on antibiotics and being as immobile as possible in the hope of a quick recovery. I realise adopting a more health conscious attitude now is very much closing the gate after the horse has already bolted and cantered half way across the country, but I think around now might be a good time to really start being a bit more careful.
The whole frustrating affair has gone to remind me how much illness is to be avoided in the winter months. Winter training builds toughness, and a strong base from constant, consistent work. Which you can’t get done if you end up taking to the covers on a regular basis.
The problem with this is that though although being fairly fit is good for you, any form of high intensity training actually has pretty detrimental affects on your immune system and makes you about as vulnerable as a caffeine addict in Costa.
When writing a recent feature on Winter Training I interviewed some elite athletes, and all of them highlighted the need to stay warm to keep well. I spent last winter running in t-shirts and shorts, I’d generally rather warm-up the manual way than over-heat and I’ve never really believed getting cold means getting-a-cold. However, I expect it can’t be that good for you, and comparing an overheated run and a week of snot nosed snuffling, I think I’d rather choose the former.
They all shared the opinion, as well, that abandoning winter running/cycling tights is a pretty risky decision. Doing so puts you at risk of straining, tearing or otherwise harming some vulnerable muscles as well, which I’m sure is not worth the pain.
To give you the short version of what took me 2000 words to write, they also all advocated drinking lots of fluid, avoiding the outdoors if there was any danger afoot (eg ice and slippery serfaces) and keeping to the side of caution in the majority of cases. The advice I found was to make friends with the treadmill and the turbo over winter and don’t believe it is going to be the end of your season of you have to skip a long ride. (To be honest, I’m a big fan of keeping tough and enduring at least three hours of rain but I can apprecaiate this might not always be the best approach.)
In my quest for a first recovery, I’ve turned my attention to the vitamin isle of good old Sainsbury’s, too. I’m not sure supplements really boost the immune system, but if cod liver oil could keep me well and vitamin c just might keep me on the track I’ll give it a go.
So, with advice from the pros at the forefront of my mind, I’m wrapping up, drinking lots, popping cod liver oil once a day, and investing in some of that panic bought hand sanitizer, just in case. I call this Winter Bug #1, and have decided to do my absolute utmost to make sure I avoid Bug #2 at all costs.