Training and racing while sick?

 In Training Physiology
HRV Data from October

This data includes a period of sickness

I wanted to share a little data. This is my Heart Rate Variability data over the last three months. I use HRV4Training for analysis.

  • How long does it take to get over being sick?
  • How long does it take to get back into training after a break?

At the end of September, I got a common cold. I felt bad for a few days and then tried to work my way out of a hole. One of the questions I get often is should I work through being a little sick.

Here is my data. I started getting sick, based on data, 9/23. I started feeling bad on the 25th. It took almost five days for me to turn the corner. From there it was almost a week before I was back to the same level I was at on the 23rd. This is close to two full weeks.

Looking further in the data, I raced on 9/26 and you can see it decreased my ramp rate to getting better. Would I have recovered a little quicker if I had not done the race? The data would definitely suggest this.

How will I change my personal training? I am going to continue to watch my HRV data and when the data shows a declining trend and I am not feeling well, I am going to pull the plug for at least a five day period. But doesn’t not training hurt more than training through the cold? From my ‘turn the corner’ to normal numbers was seven full days. So let’s answer that question.

On October 10th Dana and I started a little trip. We were going to be gone for nine days. The plan was to ‘deload’ but still go for walks, just not structured training. During the nine days, my Chronic Training Load (CTL) decreased due to not training but my HRV continued to rise as my freshness increased. We got back on the 19th, trained for two days, and then found out we were going to have to drive to Colorado. Looking at the data, the combination of not training, losing fitness, and stress caused the HRV to again begin to trend downwardly. We made it back home on November 1st after a full three weeks off the bike. We took a week to do some light training to ensure our ramp rates were not too steep. By the 10th we started our typical training routine and within three days, even though our training load was steadily increasing, I was back in my normal range and it took a total of five days to regain my CTL.

Here is a case in which we deliberately took three weeks off, using five-day low ramp workouts and then three days of typical intensity, I was on the path of gains. One last point, I had my best 2-min effort on the Wattbike, just two days ago.

What are my lessons learned?

1.) Don’t try and work through sickness, take the week, get well, come out better than you went in.

2.) Having to take a one or two or three-week break does not have as long an impact as one might think. Yes, you may lose potential gains during that period, but the mental and physical adaptations that follow may be worth it.

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