There is a fine balance that must be maintained for optimal training. The body must stay hydrated, well fed and have enough sleep. Of course, this is sometimes a tough act and things will slip. When that happens evil little microbes sneak past the body's immune system and start reeking havoc on the person they have invaded. It is at the first throb of the head or scratch of the throat that the athlete must make a decision: should I push it today or take the time to heal?
This decision, at least for me, is never made lightly. There have been times I have gone to the pool when I was still swimming, with a raging fever and the shakes. Half way through the workout, I would usually get out and go home or I would finish the practice with horrible results. The next few days I would be curled up in bed, praying someone would just put me out of my misery. Sometimes the decision to practice or stay home was made for me by a coach. The coach would tell me to come in despite my angry immune system and I would go. I suppose I could have refused, there were times I did, but for the most part I went.
Now that I am a bit older and training on my own, the responsibility of attending practices faithfully falls solely on me. This can be a good and a bad thing. I think it is good because it forces me to take responsibility for my training. It can be a bad thing because I could accidentally make decisions that may impact my training in the future.
Since moving to Scotland in August, my body has battled at least two flu/colds and I am currently fighting off the third. It is a new environment with new germs my immune system has never been exposed to and so I think, despite eating fruits/veggies, hydrating, sleeping well and taking vitamins it is inevitable that I will catch something.
The current cold battle started Sunday. I could feel my throat getting sore and my body just didn't want to work. I assaulted myself with Golden Seal, a natural herb meant to assist with immunity defense, and all of the orange juice I could get my hands on. I woke up yesterday feeling horrible and wasn't up long before I went and crawled back into bed. I took more Golden Seal and orange juice and slept as much as I needed. I was supposed to go to the gym at 3 for a consultation with a personal trainer, but I could hardly lift my head off the pillow to wish my husband good luck at the gym.
Last night I slept fitfully, sweating and drifting in and out of sleep. My morning was a bit rough, but with more Golden Seal and orange juice, I managed to get out this morning. That said, I don't think the gym is on today's agenda.
So, how do you know when you should just push through something or take the time off to heal?
My honest answer is that I really don't know. It's just a feeling you have.
For me, if I feel like I am on the brink of having or have a fever, then I take time off. I've read a few articles that condone taking two days to heal off as opposed to trying to work through it and performing poorly during practices due to illness. Often, this also leads to needing to take more time off in the long run because you haven't allowed your body to heal.
Mentally, I feel guilty, but knowing that I could hardly walk from the couch to the kitchen yesterday to get a glass of water indicates to me that perhaps napping instead of trying to run six kilometres was more beneficial.
Tomorrow I will make up the missed appointment and probably benefit from it much more than I would have on Monday. The trainer is supposed to weigh me, take my resting heart rate and blood pressure. Resting heart rates rise when a person is ill as do blood pressures and so if I had gone in on Monday, the information would not have been accurate. With that in mind, my guilt eases slightly. I also feel a bit better knowing that when I workout tomorrow, I will be better able to accomplish the goals I have set out for that day's practice.
This journey is all about baby steps and learning when to push and when to rest. I don't think I have it down yet, but I'm learning.