Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Getting Sick and Coming Back

Editor's note: Initially written in February 2013 while getting ready for "Hustle up the Hancock" in Chicago. I'm still behind in keeping my blog up-to-date, but I'm slowly catching up!
I was in great shape last November when I climbed Willis and Stamford. I posted a pretty solid times and I attribute most of my success to hard work and a careful diet. Unfortunately, my fitness took a sharp nosedive during the holiday season when I was knocked out by a couple of illnesses. Although I’m finally healthy, my fitness levels are still down and with racing season starting up shortly, I’m definitely under prepared.

Getting sick really sucks, but at least I've learned several valuable lessons about getting sick, staying healthy, and getting back into shape.

1)      During the holidays, one of my family members came down with an awful cough that lasted several weeks. Although I didn't immediately get sick, I didn't get a decent night’s sleep for a couple weeks in a row since the coughing kept me up at night, too. I’m sure that lack of sleep was a factor in catching an illness. Lesson Learned: When caring for a loved one, don’t forget to care for yourself. The next time someone has a chronic cough, I’m going to set aside an extra couple hours just for sleep and rest. 
2)      I eventually caught a relatively minor cold. I ended up taking a couple days off from exercise to recuperate. Once I was on the mend, I slid back into my workout routine. Since racing season was just on the horizon, I was anxious to get back into the stairwell and I quickly ramped up my training intensity. After a particularly challenging workout session coupled with a full day of work & after work activities, I felt drained. The following workout session was very taxing despite a relatively low intensity and I felt pretty woozy toward the end of the workout. That night I came down with a fever and I ended up staying home (and out of the gym) for the next week. Lesson Learned: Working out when recovering from an illness can help stave off a decline in fitness, but the harder the session, the more susceptible you are to illness. In my case, a common cold morphed into something quite serious. The next time I’m sick I’m going to make sure I’m 100% healthy before attempting a taxing workout.
3)      After three weeks of inactivity (preceded by a couple weeks of sub-par workouts) my fitness dropped considerably. Once I was back in the gym, I confirmed my greatest fear: I wasn't even close to my pre-sickness fitness levels. In less than a month, I had lost several months’ worth of fitness gains. Lesson Learned: My cardiovascular endurance dropped quickly and is coming back very slowly. My leg strength, on the other hand, did not suffer very much and came back very quickly. See the table below.

Interval Pace*
Strength Training Recovery**
My Peak Fitness
Moderate Soreness
January 9th
Start of illness
Moderate Soreness
January 29th
Comeback week #1
Extremely Sore
February 5th
Comeback week #2
Very Sore
February 12th
Comeback week #3
Moderate Soreness
February 19th
Pre-Hustle (week #4)
Moderate Soreness

*The interval pace column represents my average pace during interval training on the Precor Stepper:  5 sets of 4 minutes done at pace with 1 minute rest in between.
**My subjective feeling of how I felt 1-2 days after my leg strength workouts (Tabata leg presses, weighted lunges, etc.)
***My workout was done at 165 when I was recovering from a cold and still had chest congestion, however I probably could have kicked it up a notch to 170 had I been healthy.

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