This time of year is synonymous with lots of things from holidays, to weather changes, and of course illness. The CDC recently published a report stating that flu season is generally active between October and May, with peak times between December and February. Anyone who has ever had the flu knowns that it’s like a knockout punch that keeps you down anywhere from two to four days. This can be a huge set back to avid trainers and athletes who go to the gym daily and keep active. I myself, experienced a pretty severe flu-like illness just a few weeks ago. Not only did it halt my gym efforts but also came with an aftermath. Getting back on track after it subsided was a huge challenge. With that said, let’s examine some considerations to take when returning to training after an illness.
DON’T RUSH IT
Of course after being down for the count for a few days you are eager to get back on task. Keep in mind that even though you might feel better, your body is still healing. Rest is vital to your recovery. Remember that your efforts in the gym are earned through rest when the body repairs muscle tissue. Well the same holds true for fighting illness. Ease your way back into your routine; don’t just go from bed to your usual workout right out of the gate. Chances are, your strength will not be up to par for anywhere from one to three days after you “feel better”. Also, you don’t want to risk overtaxing your recovering body. This might even cause an illness rebound. If you don’t think you can do it, then its best to wait. Recovering from illness and lack of motivation are not one in the same. Listen to your body, not your ego.
Fitness Tip: Your strength returns gradually after being sick. You can expect it to take anywhere from 1-3 days to return.
WANT TO GET BACK
Not the opposite of what was said above; don’t let being sick be an excuse. For many people, several days off is enough to make their motivation go to zero. By all means ease your way back, but be sure to get back. If weight loss is your goal being sick could even be a good motivation. Your body has in a sense set itself back to start and rid itself of lots of bad foods you may have eaten. Use that reset as a start from scratch.
RETHINK MEAL TIME
Any avid trainee in the gym likely structures their days around food. However after an illness like the flu you probably have not eaten much of anything for a couple of days. Resuming your normal food intake is probably not a good idea. Similar to the gym, ease your way back into eating. Stick with clean foods that are high in protein and easy to digest. Good options are chicken breast, eggs, brown rice, and steamed vegetables. It may be best to wait a couple days before taking any thermogenic, pre-workout supplements, or protein shakes as your stomach is still very sensitive. Keep in mind that you may need to reduce your normal caloric intake for the first day or two. This will not hamper your goals.
Fitness Tips: Bone broth is an amazing way to build your immune system back up from the inside out. Using this as a base in soups delivers powerful organic probiotics, collagen, and other organic properties that you can only get from bone broth.
Whether you have a simple cold or a full blown flu, it is vital to stay hydrated. This is especially true if you are vomiting because it leads to dehydration. A good option is sports drinks that offer electrolytes. It is important that you start drinking and rehydrating before you get back to the gym. You may want to increase your fluid intake by about 25% for the first few days back. So if you normally drink a gallon of water a day, bump that up to 1.25 gallons.
CLEAN UP AND CLEAN IN
Of course you are anxious to get back to working hard towards your goals. You don’t want another setback on your way back. When you feel well enough to be up and about, use this time to clean the house. Use some type of wipe or cleanser that is made to kill viruses and bacteria. Clean areas around your bed, bathroom, and anywhere else you were while sick. Some things you may not think to clean include TV remotes, smart phones, tablets and computers. Don’t bring those lingering germs to the gym on your MP3 player or phone.
Finally, take a multivitamin with your morning and evening meals. While you should do this anyway, it is very important after an illness. All those calories and fluids you lost while sick also removed numerous vital vitamins and minerals. This will help in speeding up your recovery.
In closing if your illness is more severe than a common cold or flu, then it is best to consult with your doctor before returning to the gym. Also consider that some of your usual supplements may not interact well with over the counter and prescribed medications.