This was an interesting post for me to write; I really had to sit down and think before typing. But this is important for me to say because I’ve always been the kind of athlete that wants to do more, more, more, and it’s hard to admit it but I can be really stubborn when it comes to the simplest thing about training: RESTING and taking it easy. It took me years to learn that training in level 1 is not only important to avoid over-training; it’s a crucial part of teaching your body to race faster and use fuel more efficiently. Similarly, the concept of rest days were extremely hard for me to accept, even though I’ve improved as an athlete since taking one day off a week.
So getting sick is basically my worst nightmare. But let’s face it: as elite athletes who train hard and race hard, we’re vulnerable to getting sick and it’s something we all have to face at one point or another during the race season. And when you’re sick, you have only one option: to stop training.
When I got to Finland for the pre-camp leading up to the World Junior Championships – races that I’ve been looking forward to all year – I was pretty stressed out when I caught a cold only five days before my first race. The worst thing you can do when you are sick is stress, since it only hinders your recovery. But stress I did, and it didn’t make me feel any better.
So here’s the side of the fun ski trips that you don’t often hear or read about. When an athlete gets sick, it’s their job to tell a coach at the first warning sign. They owe it to their teammates to help keep everyone healthy. But they become “the sick kid”, and get moved into a room on their own and basically don’t see the rest of the team until they’re feeling better. It’s not fun, but it’s the only way to keep from spreading germs to the rest of the team.
Luckily, we’ve got such a fun and strong team here that I didn’t feel ostracized, and the coaches were really understanding and kept reassuring me that it didn’t matter if I was out with a cold for a few days; I could still race well as long as I didn’t let my cold mess with my head come race day. So I tried my best to relax and do everything in my power to recover quickly. I drank Emergen-C like crazy, got lots of sleep, and instead of skiing I read books, re-formatted my website, did yoga, stretched, watched stupid but funny videos on youtube, read johnnyklister, and kept myself entertained.
And you know what? I got better! I was able to get on snow one day before the race to test skis and go over the courses briefly, and then I got back to the hotel and put my feet up. On race day I was so excited to just feel healthy again, and be outside in the fresh air, that I wasn’t letting my head push me out of the race. I was able to focus and have a really good race, and enjoy every minute of it.
In the end, getting a cold may have actually been the best thing for me, because I would have likely over-trained otherwise and been tired going into the race. Instead, I was jazzed up and ready to hit the trails, and I learned a few valuable things in the process. It doesn’t really matter what you do the few days before a race – as long as you don’t overdo it. You could be sick, you could do some pickups, or you could only hit the trails for 2o minutes…..and you could have the best race of your life! It’s important to realize that there is no “magic formula”, no one right way to do things. If you can keep it flexible and take what comes at you, you’re way more likely to succeed.