Cycling Training Through Sickness

How to Continue Cycling Training Through Sickness


An unfortunate fact of training in the winter months is the probability that you will get sick at some point during this time. Continuing our cycling training through sickness is a hurdle that most of us will face at some point. For most of us, this is more of a “when we get sick” rather than “if we get sick” scenario. Your chances of contracting a minor illness increase if you have children and if you work in an office setting or out out in public and are exposed to germs on a regular basis. So far I haven’t told you anything you don’t already know, right? Okay, so here are some things to keep in perspective as we approach the winter months to help you stay more healthy and overcome the hurdle of getting sick while you are also trying to build your fitness for the coming cycling season.

Doing your best to stay healthy and keep from getting sick can help you avoid trying to continue cycling training through sickness or taking a break in your training and dealing with the inconvenience of adapting your training plan to work around being sick.


Healthy Habits Support Your Immune System

Doing things that will keep your immune system strong are paramount to staying healthy. Get good, regular sleep. Getting adequate rest will help your body stay healthy and keep from getting run down and compromising your immune system. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. As fall turns to winter, and fresh produce becomes harder to find, it can be easy to get away from consuming vitamin rich foods that help your immune system stay strong. Make sure to focus on consuming plenty of fruit and leafy greens which are high in antioxidants that will help to strengthen your immune system. Wash or clean your hands after touching public common areas such as door handles, gas pumps, etc. Mostly, be conscious of keeping your immune system strong and avoiding contact with germs.

Cycling Through Sickness

What do you do when you do get sick? How do you cope with the illness and how should you go about your cycling training? Keep in mind that taking a break of a few days to help your body fight off your sickness can be better than trying to continue to train through the sickness and having it hold on for several weeks.

Continuing your cycling training with the common cold can be more of a matter of inconvenience and discomfort than anything else. I believe that it is often a good idea to dial back the intensity of your training and reduce the training load when you are sick just to be on the safe side rather than push the envelope and risk getting worse symptoms or having the sickness hold on for longer than it otherwise would. I like to think of training rides when I am sick as a mental break and a chance to release some endorphins and feel better for a little while. I often find that while riding, I actually feel better and I did before I was riding. The goal is less about gaining training stress or fatigue, and more about keeping your legs fresh and loose and staying in the routine of training.

If the weather is not good when you happen to get sick, I recommend staying indoors to train. Riding in the cold and breathing heavily in the cold air while sick can only exacerbate your cold symptoms.

If you have the unfortunate experience of contracting the flu or a more serious illness that brings fever and body aches, taking time off from exercise will be much more beneficial in the long run than any continued training. If you try to train through this type of illness, you will likely not be able to perform well and will bring significant added fatigue and stress to your already stressed body, thus compounding the issue and likely significantly prolonging your recovery time.  

If you take some time off from training, focus on rest and helping your body to fight off the sickness. When you return to training, ease back into things and gage your body’s readiness to take on significant training again.

Aside from the physical discomfort of being sick, one of the hardest aspects of getting sick while you are middle of your training plan is the mental aspect of it. It can be depressing to get sick and feel like you are losing training time and that you are falling behind and won’t be prepared for the coming racing season. It can seem like you took one step forward and two steps backward. These thoughts are the irrational but real thoughts that can drive us do things that are ultimately detrimental to our long-term training. Don’t give into these thoughts and try to train hard through sickness. You will almost certainly be doing yourself a disservice by trying to do so and jeopardize your health and fitness in the process.

Getting sick while you’re training during the winter months can present some real challenges, but by taking a long-term view and focusing on healing and recovery, you can shorten the time you are affected by the illness and minimize the disruption to your training schedule.

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