How to train when you’re sick … as a rower

Previously: Steer an eight/four || Call a pick drill and reverse pick drill ||  Avoid getting sick || Make improvement as a novice || Protect your voice || Pass crews during a head race || Be useful during winter training

It’s inevitable that at the start of a new school year/semester or season (winter … always winter) a bug will make its way around campus and will eventually spread throughout the team. It’s happened on every team I’ve been a part of and never fails to make everyone downright miserable for the two weeks it takes to get over it. If you’re training while sick (or considering it), here’s a couple tips + reminders.

Related: How to avoid getting sick during winter training

Sleep, fluids, and easily digestible meals are the best way to combat a cold.

Even though you’ll probably feel less productive due to lower energy levels, don’t skimp on sleep to make up for whatever work you’re not getting done. In theory it doesn’t sound like the worst plan in the world but trust me, the only thing that’s on the same level of regret as working through a hangover is working through a nasty cold. Accept that you’re sick and need to take a break. Communicate with the appropriate people to get an extension if you need it or to cover your shift at work and just go to sleep. Stay hydrated too by keeping your water bottle nearby and downing water, Pedialyte, etc. at regular intervals. If you can handle eating small meals, do so. Since moving to Boston, whenever I’m sick my go-to meal is chicken noodle soup from Wegmans so if you have one near you I highly recommend having a friend pick you up some. I don’t know what magical potion they put in there but I swear it speeds up my recovery time like no other. (Plus it’s delicious so there’s that too.)

You can train through a cold as long as you don’t develop a fever and it doesn’t make it’s way into your chest.

You’ll typically hear this referred to as “above the neck” and “below the neck” symptoms. If you’ve got a runny nose, congestion, a sore throat, etc. then you’re typically OK to practice (unpleasant as it may be to do so). Backing off on the length and/or intensity of your workout for a day or two is usually smart in these cases just to give your body a bit of a break. Your standard cold isn’t going to have much impact on your performance but once your temperature starts spiking, you start experiencing widespread muscle soreness, or your cold turns into something like bronchitis (this happens to me every year without fail), you’ve gotta take it more seriously and go to a doctor or the student health center on campus. This is the point where similar to a physical injury, if you don’t take it seriously you could end up hurting yourself more in the long run.

All of this obviously requires communication with your coach so none of that “I can’t tell my coach I’m sick” bullshit. (If that’s where you’re at then you’ve got bigger issues than the common cold to deal with.) “But I have a 2k/6k/seat racing tomorrow and I have to be there…” Yea, no. Again, if your cold is minor tell your coach so they’re aware (do this BEFORE, not after) and then proceed with whatever you’re doing. Get plenty of sleep the night before, stay hydrated, fuel as best you can, etc. If you’re really sick, tell your coach (or have your parents do it if you’re in high school and think your coach will get pissed at you) and ask to make it up when you’re healthy.

Do your part to prevent the spreading of germs.

This should be common practice anyways but make sure you’re diligent about cleaning the erg handles, weights, etc. after using them to avoid spreading germs (or something more severe like MRSA) to the rest of the team. Wash your hands, don’t share water bottles (don’t do this anyways but especially don’t do it when you’re sick), etc. Basically follow all the rules you were taught in elementary school about proper hygiene and you’ll be good. If you come to practice with a minor cold and someone else catches it, it’s not the end of the world but it should be a reminder that you need to take the necessary precautions to ensure it doesn’t spread any further.

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