Any athlete has been there. You’re killing it in training. You have goals to reach…a PR is finally obtainable with all of the extra mileage you’re putting in. Suddenly, your body stops responding during a workout. You feel sluggish. You feel a stuffy head or even an intense stomach ache coming on. Maybe you feel hot — like you’re starting to get a fever, or is it a fever? Slight panic sets in. Your event is only a couple of weeks away! You start questioning yourself. Push through it? Suck it up? Or head home and rest to train another day?
Most sources say to listen to your bodies. I don’t know about you, but as an athlete, I ALWAYS have trouble with this one (as I’m currently trying unsuccessfully to rehab a rotator cuff injury from a fall in a co-ed soccer game!) As athletes, we have been taught from an early age to suck it up, yet most of us have gained some wisdom with age and recognize there are times when our bodies need rest. The key is to not ignore that inner voice that we’ve gained only through the trials and errors of competing. And if we choose to ignore the voice anyway, here are some good rules of thumb!
Fever? Don’t train. You’re contagious, as they tell parents of kids with fevers. Stay home. In addition to being contagious, if your body is fighting a fever it’s also likely wiped out. Rest and fluids are key to speed up recovery. Would you rather take a day or two off or wind up taking a week or two off due to sucking it up and pushing through a time you should have rested?
Sinuses? Cold symptoms? Many sources I researched said sinus issues and cold symptoms in the head should be okay for light to moderate exercise. My thought as a personal trainer is this would not be a session I’d have a client try to break lifting records. It may be a simple sweat and maintain (strength, endurance, etc.) session. And if you’re like me, sweating when you’re sinusey can actually help you feel better. Just watch the intensity!
Stomach issues? Tough one here…it could be anything. If you’re running to the bathroom every two minutes, then I think it’s just plain crazy to train. Take a day off! If it’s just a food your body is struggling to digest and/or you have a basic stomach ache you may watch the pounding on your body (i.e. walking instead of running, go lighter intensity, and obviously, limit extreme abdominal work!)
As a disclaimer, I am not a doctor. I am an athlete and a personal trainer. As such, I treat sickness just like I do injuries or even how I select exercises for clients. I weigh the pros and cons and if the cons outweigh the pros, I don’t do them. So if it would be smarter training to head home vs. sucking it up, then I’m going to do that — both as an athlete and as a personal trainer. After all, I’m in this game of competing as an athlete for life vs. just one event.
Here’s to smart training!
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