Recovery and Illness

Over the holidays I had a number of athlete’s battle illness.  They battled small bouts of depression by wondering if they were going to lose fitness.  My conversations with them prompted this blog.  I’d like to review what is important to think about during times that our body is under the weather, or in need of cyclical recovery.

Training as a cycle involves multiple elements of recovery.  It is just as important, if not more important, than our actual training days.   Recovery is where the gains of your training actually occur so we must learn how to balance it and prioritize it.   An athlete needs to be disciplined enough to understand that in order to go hard, we must also go easy.   Allowing the body its recovery allows it to push appropriately at its next hard training session. 

It is very hard for us to come to terms with giving ourselves recovery because of fear of missing out on gains, missing out on fitness, missing out on racing.  Arizona is a very difficult state to live in if you have a cycling habit because we are always “in-season”.   We have an addiction to getting stronger, fitter, and faster.  Some of the best athletes in the world live in environments that provide for an “off-season” which allows them to pull back, refocus their training, and take their recovery seriously.   You’ll find these athletes come into season with not only new freshness to their bodies but to their spirits as well.  Something to be learned here. 

Think about the professional athlete, who trains hard and then gives their body ample rest between their next session.   Most of us have full time jobs, families, and juggle other commitments besides our trainings.  We are not often given the luxury of having planned recovery immediately after a training session because we need to attend to other commitments.   We can idealize that if we all were able to quit our jobs, that we might also be able to train a professional lifestyle.  How often have you found yourself sitting around the campfire sharing stories of the “what if” moments of our cycling careers? 

Success will come to those who take note from professional athletes and try to incorporate the same ideas into their lives, however miniscule they might be.  For example, when we have planned a full recovery day, we don’t mow the lawn and we don’t do countless chores around the house all day.  We sit down and relax, unwind with an off-topic book or magazine.  Does the neighborhood kid want to earn extra cash by helping you with chores?  Often after a training session we need to jump to work.  Are you able to make sure that you’re drinking water throughout the day, adding in some extra nutrients into the diet, and taking walk breaks from your desk?    Actively thinking about recovery protocols shows that you are serious about your training. 

Outside of normal training cycles, if we feel sickness coming on, whether a scratchy throat or soreness to the skin, the time to pull back and take recovery is necessary.  It requires paying close attention to our bodies.  Often a day or two of lighter or virtually no training can boost the recovery and head off the illness, but if it does not improve, a visit to your doctor needs to occur.   The rest and recovery you give your body on the forefront of illness will provide a platform the body needs in order to return to proper training cycles.    I’m being asked quite frequently, “Will I lose fitness?”  Yes and no is my response.  High end speed and force could fade after a week or two, but muscular and aerobic endurance can easily stay present after a few weeks or even a month. 

The result, take your recovery when your body asks for it.  Whether that be from normal training cycles or from an illness, it provides for a life of health and longevity.  Your body will thank you in the long run and you will still know how to ride your bike when you return to it.

I am always open to further discussions about recovery.  The process and different techniques. Please always reach out with any questions or discussion points. I encourage it.


Kata Skaggs