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It seems that nearly everywhere I look at the moment – I’m surrounded by illness, and that’s despite that fact that the flu season has not yet hit!

Of course these types of viruses tend to spread when the weather becomes colder because we tend to stay indoors, in close proximity to others – often with the heating on, as we sneeze cough and splutter……it’s no wonder these viruses quickly spread through classrooms, households and workplaces! As for public transport, well that’s another story!

In the event that you do catch a dreaded cold or flu, any health practitioner will advise that you rest, keep up the fluids and support your immune system to do its thing. If you develop a secondary infection (e.g., bronchitis) then often antibiotics are prescribed. During this time, it’s always a good idea to give the gym a miss while you recover.

Recovery means looking after yourself. Loads of vitamins and minerals (this is a good time to up those green smoothies and juices!), and always remember to look after your tummy, especially if you have been taking antibiotics. Antibiotics kill off all of those wonderful bacteria that enable your digestive system to function effectively. As such, probiotics – Greek yoghurt, miso and kombucha are all good ways to help your digestion recover from an antibiotic onslaught!

Now hitting the pause button from training can be incredibly frustrating. Not only do your symptoms make you feel like crap, but also if exercise is your way of relieving stress, then taking time off from this healthy strategy can send you a bit bonkers.

My advice? Turn your attention inward to your body. If you try heading back to the gym or hitting the pavement for that morning run too soon – your immune system will become stressed, causing your illness to either worsen, or draw out for another week or so! Think of your immune system as a good friend who is asking you for help and support. Would you ignore your friend if they needed your help?

Your goal should be to get better ASAP. For this to happen, you must give your body what it needs.

As you start to recover, a few things are likely to happen. When you start to notice that you are feeling better – you feel relieved and optimistic. You may even have the urge to go for a run or lift some weights. Before you give in to this urge STOP and THINK.

If you are still experiencing chest congestion, or any type of infection for that matter – Don’t do it!

If you are still experiencing a fever – Don’t do it!

If you’re sleep is poor, and/or you have not been eating properly – Don’t do it!

If you have asthma (which is exacerbated by your illness) - Don't do it!

Having said that, if you are experiencing residual symptoms such as a runny nose, dry cough or sore throat (symptoms that are above the chest), your sleep is back to normal and you have been eating well (giving your body fuel to train), then by all means go for it.

However…….

Here is the second that tends to happen as you recover from illness. You feel flat, deflated and a little depressed even. Sound familiar?

This is because as you recover, your attention shifts from an “illness” focus, to a broader “wellness” focus – and with that, your usual health and fitness routine finds its way back onto your agenda. The only thing is, your body is still recovering and so you cannot expect it to bounce back to 100% straight away.

The key to a swift and full recovery is to pay attention to what your body is telling you. If you are tired, sleep, if your muscles feel weak – take the weight right down and do fewer reps.

If you are a runner, start by going for a walk – and maybe a light jog down the hills ONLY if your breathing and muscles tell you they can do it. If you start to jog and your chest hurts, or your legs feel shaky….STOP and walk.

Most importantly don’t give yourself a hard time. When you start training after illness, you often need to pull back and go back to basics. This is not because you have gone “backwards” in your fitness/strength, it’s simply because you are in recovery mode.

If you treat your body with the care and respect it deserves, it will reward you by getting back to full health in no time.