Over the last week, I've been dealing with a few "set-backs" in my training. We had rotten weather: dramatically varied temperatures, sporadic thunderstorms, and freezing rain, and winds that were treacherous at best. Most of us did our best to squeeze in rides. Whether it be during a brief sunny day or on the trainer at home - we got the time in.
However, I was unfortunate enough to have the ol' double whammy... bad weather AND a bad cold. Though I was able to get in a few afternoon rides here and there, I was neither able to "train" (intervals) nor get some real time on the bike. Congested and achy, I alternated between the computer and the couch most of the week.
On Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday I rode for about 1-1.5 hours at a casual 16.5 mph pace. I threw in a few hills and a few brief hard efforts to test my legs on Friday. My legs were fine. They were good, in fact! But my lungs and my nose couldn't keep up, and after a few seconds, I could feel my system slowing down... so I slowed down. Unlike allergies, a cold can get worse if you try to push yourself, continuing to train.
Let's face it, I'm not going to make a living riding the bicycle. There's NO reason for me to press my luck, riding in 40° temps, in the rain, while sick. There is nothing to be gained by that. It's better to heal - take the time off, let your body do the work, hydrate, watch what you eat, and get back on the bike when it's time.
And it will be time again.
All too often, inexperienced athletes try to push themselves through an ailment, but rather than coming out stronger, they usually cause the sickness to last longer, inevitably wrecking months rather than weeks worth of work. The best thing for us to do is rest. Rest, recoup, and come back ready to start training again.
The other issue that I see in so many athletes is the sense of "catching up." Yes, a cold can make you miss time, but that time is gone. You can NOT make up that time by adding extra miles or hours the following week. In fact, immediately adding time/distance would be more detrimental that the week off!
So how does one "come back" from a week of nearly NO riding?
"Pacing myself, sir."
- There is one key thing to remember when returning from an extended time off; whether due to sickness, work, travel, family, or something else:
You will not be as strong on your return as when you left: endurance, anaerobic capacity, and aerobic base are all effected by this kind of long break (though each in different amounts). Yes, you will have freshness, but you will not have the same fitness level. So be very careful not to over-extend yourself in the first few days back.
It's tempting to go out and try to knock-back a 14+ hour week after having been off the bike for 10 days, but this will only lead to the dreaded "Over Training" which can destroy an entire season! (Trust me, I've been there... don't ever pound on dead legs.)
Start slowly - 1 hour easy. The next day add some time and a few hills, but keep conservative. Add a little each day until, after at least a week, you are back to where you were two weeks before your time off. Yes. 2 weeks before. It's a set-back, but you will be riding stronger in the long run.
Your coach can give you specifics on how to go about recovering fully, but in general, it's best to be patient.
My biggest frustration this past weekend was missing out on the Rock Hill Races. This has been one of my favorite races each year, and I was really bummed that I couldn't be there this year. The funny thing is: I was sick last year at this time, too!
I remember saying to myself, "Hey, there's always next year," and to my surprise - there wasn't. But will there be a 2012?
So, I will just take a deep breath, slowly ramp up my training, focus on the next big event on my "race calendar," and go from there.