Thankfully I’ve been able to stave off serious injury during the past few years through preventitive measures like massage, masochistic work with my foam roller and a little luck. Illness on the other hand is something everybody deals with at one or another, and unfortunately for me, pneumonia has kept me off the bike and on my ass since before Christmas. I’ve been going on two and a half months of complete inactivity… Not good times.
Getting back into things has been hard – Despite prolonged time off the bike I never really adjusted expectations of my performance, so when I finally did get back on the bike it was… A little humbling.
Looking straight up at the numbers, my daily commute is taking me upwards of 15% longer – not encouraging. But even worse, my legs feel completely shelled when I get home. While friends are pounding out intervals or in Tucson training camps, I’m fighting to get back what little form I had prior to winter.
When coming back from injury or illness it’s only natural to have the hunger to start laying it down after so much time off, but we rarely take the time to mentally adjust to what this “down time” has done to our systems.
Dr. David Pyne wrote a good article for the Australian Sports Commission detailing specifically how an athlete should handle their recovery, and how to properly ladder themselves back up to their pre-illness training regimens. The order and priority of training elements are:
In other words, the first priority to get back to the same frequency of training (even if you need to sacrifice the duration and intensity), you can then bring your workouts back to their full duration (even if you still aren’t at 100% intensity). Once comfortable with that level of training you can work to bring your intensity back to 100%.
Especially with prolonged illness, the loss of fitness can be shocking – According to one study, 3 months of illness can result in up to a 50% loss of fitness (and that’s for athletes that have been training for over a year). Given the potentially humbling return to training you may face – it’s equally important to take it slow and stay positive.
Maintaining a positive mental approach is key, but is also one of the hardest aspects – Especially when you’re balancing work, home life, training and your recovery it can definitely be a bit overwhelming. From my experience, take it slow and focus on small manageably attainable goals.