triathlon training camp

Minimising your lay-off from training

Coming back from illness can be a very frustrating process and really does take discipline.  Ultimately your goal is to minimise the amount of time you are unable to perform high quality training. We emphasise this because being on a bike and unable to hold power or running whilst coughing your guts up is not high quality training. Sometimes, you have to take more recovery in order to reduce the overall length of time you are unable to train with purpose.


When to train and when not to train

Each illness is different and the introduction of COVID into the pantheon of bugs out there has added an extra layer of complexity. As a general rule though:

– If the illness remains above the head (i.e. just a snotty nose and a bit bunged up), you are probably okay to train but it must be kept low intensity. This means Zone 2 maximum or a 3-4/10 RPE. Using your heart rate to manage this can also help keep the ego at bay.

– If the illness has gotten into your chest (i.e. phlegmy cough), do not train.

There is zero benefit to exericsing when you are not right to do so. All it will do is exacerbate the symptoms with increased or prolonged respiratory immflamation or could lead to more serious complications, for example, a chest infection requiring a course of antibiotics.

Another cue for knowing whether to train or not, is simply whether you are umming and arring about whether to do so. The likelihood is, you are a highly motivated individual and therefore, if you are questioning whether to train, the chances are that you are not ready.  We are pretty good at getting the right signals from our bodies, but often the ego can see us ignore those signals.


Once you are ready, how to approach your return to training

So let’s assume you have been sensible about it and either your illness has not progressed into the chesty cough phase, or you have passed through it and are out the other side of it.  In these instances, we suggest a 3-5 day return to training protocol:

Day 1 – 30-minutes of very low intensity (Zone 1: 1-2/10 RPE) training.  See how your body responds over the next 6-hours or so. If you experience no adverse reaction, then move on to day 2.

Day 2 – 45-minutes of low intensity training (Zone 2: 3-4/10 RPE). Again, no reaction from your body, move to day 3.

Day 3 – 60-minutes of low intensity training (Zone 2: 3-4/10 RPE). No reaction from your body? Move to day 4.

Day 4 – 60-minutes of low intensity training, but this time, throw in a few higher intensity efforts circa 8/10 RPE.  You might have a bit of a tight chest but as long as you don’t get  a return of phlegm to your chest, move on to Day 5

Day 5 – Return back to your normal training schedule but be mindful that your chest will likely be a bit tight for another week or so. So, be kind to yourself and don’t stress if your numbers aren’t immediately good again. We would suggest largely relying on rate of perceived exertion and heart rate during this period, rather than objective metrics such as power.

The above is a very general protocol and the circumstances really determine how applicable it is. In our opinion though, if you get ill, we would suggest trying to accept from the beginning that you are looking at probably at least 2-weeks of recovery (1-week completely off, 1-week going through the above protocol), before you are back to quality training again. Managing your expectations in this way can help to avoid making silly decisions that set you back.