Here we are trying to train the human machine and what happens? Viruses. The David to our Goliath, we’ve been felled by the nanoscopic little blighters. We are frail – as in fallible, weak and vulnerable.
It’s distressing: lying about like a Victorian lady with a fit of the vapours.
The sick role
We’re supposed to be superheroes. We are not supposed to be frail. We’ve got a schedule to stick to! It has not been at all easy accepting the sick role identity and we have railed against it. The multitasker kept running through her cold with conjunctivitis and ended up with chest pain, I refused to accept muscle aches and feverishness with no other symptoms were at all significant and am still having fevers 2 weeks later. We had to be told to stop.
Why stop? How to stop?
When you’re pursuing exercise for beneficial health reasons, you have a big psychological barrier to stopping. We know that in old age frailty is reduced by exercise with multi-nutrients. If 86 year olds can benefit from training, surely we can do it when we’ve “just” got a virus?
Well, “just” a virus is potentially quite significant. We should have taken our own advice on the “below the neck” no-training rule: if you’ve just got the “snot-monster” then carry on, anything below the neck – gut rot, fever causing muscle aches and pains, cough with phlegm then STOP. This is to avoid prolonging the illness and potentially damaging your heart.
But it’s so psychologically difficult to stop – you’ve built up a routine, you’ve got into a habit, you’re on a schedule, you are really quite addicted to those endorphins.
Plus, you know you’ll have to go back and start again building back up that habit, getting back into routine, behind on the schedule and having the discipline not to jump back in where you should be, but reverse a bit and build back up – knowing you’ve lost the training trajectory that would have seen you match fit by race day.
How to start again?
Firstly, know a bit about immunity and training. Whilst we saw that swimming in the winter protects swimmers from colds their partners have, and that regular exercise for 20 minutes 3 times a week reduces the frequency and intensity of colds, hard training has a short term opposite effect.
After hard training there is a variable length “open window” of suppressed immunity when it’s virus open season, if you get exposed. You can read advice on prevention here, but I think this highlights where I was going wrong. I was doing my long runs on a Sunday and I work a 12 hour (or more day) interacting with viruses on a Monday (in the open window). I hadn’t been taking my vitamin D over the winter (procrastination!) and I had spent quality time cramming in the stretching and foam rolling and post-run nutritioning in the 30 minutes post-run carb. window, but in my nasty wet sports kit. I had also experimented with low carb training to keto-adapt – but I have given that up as a very bad idea not suited to Hobbits. (the multitasker is doing very well with it, so don’t knock it if it suits you!)
So what next? When I am finally a full 24 hours fever free I can then do a swim or a cycle or a sloooooow 5km run and see how I feel. I’ve cancelled 2 sportives already and a duathlon. I am supposed to be running a 1/2 marathon in 4 weeks, so I have to be disciplined enough to demote myself to the 10km on the day if I haven’t caught back up. I have to accept my frailty and work with it.
And no more Sunday runs!