Things tend to go in cycles. Last week was the phase of sickness and shitty long runs. In a three day window I received emails from 6 athletes that they were unable to complete workouts due to illness. I can’t remember, in ten years of coaching, ever having so many athletes sick at the same time.
And then, to make matters even more interesting, nearly everybody that had a long run on their schedule yesterday sent an email detailing various reasons why they had a crappy run: too cold, too muddy, too hung over, too sick, bonked, cranky
Given that last week I too was sick and I too had an immensely un-pleasurable long run, I was really able to commiserate with my dejected athletes.
Dealing with sickness
Winter and illness are consistent bedfellows. Right now, Boulder is in the midst of rampant sickness with the flu, stomach virus and a nasty cold/cough going around. At this point, the only reasonable thing to do is to tent the city and call an exterminator to rid us of all of the bugs.
Getting sick sucks. It puts a damper on everything. Training is affected, work productivity diminishes and patience with family matters is on thin ice.
Training while sick is dicey. In terms of head colds, a nice easy run or spin helps clear out the sinuses. This is a really good time to learn how to blow a decent snot rocket, a skill every endurance athlete really should master. A good snot rocket makes you feel like your head is going to cave in afterwards. Runny noses are inevitable this time of year, and you know that it is really cold out when you come home from a workout with snot frozen to your face. Ah, yes, the glamor of athletics!
Most other illnesses are going to require complete days off and should be dealt with according to how sick you are.
There is nothing to fret about when illness affects training. Because, truly, once you get sick, there is nothing you can do about it except concentrate on getting healthy. Instead of focusing on all of the missed workouts, remind yourself of the excellent workouts that are already in the bank. A week of missed training will not undo the many weeks (or even months) of consistent workouts prior to getting sick.
If you miss a few days of training due to illness, do not try to make it up by frantically plugging in the workouts you skipped. Those workouts are history. For most run of the mill winter infirmities, you can ease back into training with a couple of slower paced workouts to test things out and then pick back up with your schedule. Your body will let you know if you are ready and able to complete workouts with harder efforts.
The shitty long run
My sister seemed to kick off a trend of less than ideal long runs. I Tweeted last week about how she called me for some motivation 10 miles into a 20 mile run. I gave her some advice and she completed the run. She fared much better than I did…
I was scheduled to run 20 miles on Sunday and by mile 3 I knew that was never going to happen. The combination of extreme cold and a lingering cough led to a run that will now be the barometer to which all crappy runs will be held. When I got home from my run, shortened to 15 sloth-like miles, I was surprised by the onslaught of emails from athletes detailing their frustration over difficult long runs.
It is never ideal to have a bad workout, but a difficult long run comes with a lot more expectation and emotion then most other workouts and is therefore viewed from a completely different perspective. In people’s mind, the long run is deeply tied to fitness and readiness more than any other workout of the week. The thought being, “if I have a good long run, I am totally ready for my race and if I have a bad long run then I am an unfit bag of crap.” This mindset is erroneous and self-defeating.
The long run, by definition, is long. Therefore, there is a lot more time for things to go wrong. And, with the placement of the long at the end of the week, the body is already tired from so many other workouts. The long run is predestined to be difficult!
While the long run is an important aspect of training, it is not the only aspect of training. A tough long run is bound to happen, and in the winter, with cold weather, snow, and illness, the chance of bad long run is heightened. Don’t put so much pressure on the long run. It is only one cog in a big machine. One bad long run does not equate to a bad race just as a good long run doesn’t translate into a stellar race. What matters the most is good, consistent training over time.