Coming Back After an Illness

Published by Jason Narog on

I’m currently on the road back to fitness after being taken down by the flu. From watching the news [Fox 12 posted this story] it sounds like this H3N2 flu virus spreading across the country is hitting a lot of people hard, and it’s sticking around for awhile. I was literally bed ridden for 6 days. I broke 2 fevers. I finally went outside on day 7 to go to work and left work at 3. Days 8-10 I was still leaving work early and had absolutely no energy.

I finally went to 1 one hour workout on day 15. I was pretty much finished energy wise in the first 30 minutes. I went to ballroom dancing on day 18 and did alright during the 45 minute class. I tried 3 one hour classes on days 20, 21, and 22. Day 20 I was dizzy within 40 minutes, day 21 I felt clumsy, and day 22 I threw up at the end of the workout. I started day 22 with the wrong mentality, I wanted to get my endurance back as quickly as possible and went harder than I should have. That was a learning lesson I feel I can and should share with the world.

We’re on day 23 at the time of writing this post.

I’ll continue to add to this as I come back from my own illness and will note which pieces are updates.

How long should you wait before resuming an exercise program after you’ve been sick?

If you’re no longer sneezing and / or coughing and have energy you should be OK to resume an exercise program. Start yourself off slow. General overall fitness is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. If you were sick for a few days then you should be able to resume your regular workout routine a lot faster than if you were bedridden for a week.

What pace should I go at when coming back from a long illness?

Slow. If you’ve been out for more than 2 weeks you need to go easy on yourself. You’ll regain what you lost, but your body and mind are still recovering and you don’t want to do too much too soon. Ease into it. Take breaks if you need to. If you push too fast like I did you’ll wind up pushing back your overall recovery and make it take even longer to fully regain that which you’ve lost.

[Additional updates from 1/12/18]

What should I eat before a workout when coming back from an illness?

Stick with whatever you were eating previously. In my case my day 22 (the day I lost my breakfast) diet was something new that I’d never eaten previously before a workout – snackable sausage sandwiches. The sandwich itself was fairly greasy and didn’t sit very well in my stomach again today on day 24. This may have contributed to my downfall and the fact I was coming back from after an illness had little to do with what happened to me and more to do with what I ate.

However, I did something else that was fairly silly on day 22.

How much liquid should I gulp down while exercising?

Try to hydrate yourself long before your workout. If you’re coming into the workout dehydrated, drinking fluids during isn’t going to put those fluids back into your body in a timely fashion. My chiropractor suggested to me being hydrated 24 hours before showing up for any sort of chiro / massage work. If you’re pounding water a few hours (or even minutes) before going in the only thing you’re going to have is a weak bladder.

If you’re going to suck down water during the workout, take smallish sips. In the case of my day 22 I kept taking “breaks” to drink more fluids after about halfway into my workout. Lots of breaks. I potentially over-hydrated my body making myself sick. Shape magazine in an article called Overhydration: Is it Possible to Drink Too Much Water they note one of the signs of overhydration as vomiting.

What did the news say about exercising while ill?

Listen to your body. If you have symptoms above the neck – sneezing, headache, ichy eyes, etc then you’re OK to exercise at a lighter pace than you typically would. If you have symptoms below the neck – coughing, tightness of chest, etc then you really shouldn’t exercise. If your body tells you to slow down then you really need to slow down. A future personal trainer passed away in Pittsburgh, PA this year from the flu that’s been going around – Young, Seemingly Fit Pennsylvania Man Dies of Flu Complications .

I’ll type it again, listen to your body. Ease your way back in during this nasty flu season. Don’t eat greasy sausage before working out. Stay hydrated but drink water way before you go back into the gym. If you feel like you’ve had enough, then you’ve had enough. Get back into fitness slowly after an illness. Trying to go too hard too fast is only going to set you back.

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