When training is part of your job, it takes priority on a daily basis. What gives us the ability to train is our bodies. If our bodies aren’t working then we can’t train. This sounds like an obvious concept, but it’s not something I focus on or think about. I take the time to appreciate that I can train, but I take my body for granted. I’m used to waking up every day knowing that at some point I’ll be moving around. I had forgotten what it feels like when this isn’t an option, and you no longer have the choice to even get out of bed because your body won’t let you. I had forgotten what it feels like to be sick.
I’ve been injured in the past and this has put certain things on hold. But an injury doesn’t cause you to stop training. Physical injuries can often be worked around. If you sprain something, break something or bruise something you can still move other parts of your body. Even if you’re rehabbing damaged areas, you still have the ability to move your body and be active.
I woke up one morning a few weeks ago, not feeling great, but I assumed I was tired from the previous days training. I fell asleep until lunchtime and once I’d woken up that was it. I threw up, and through the day anything I tried to eat just came back up. My head was fuzzy, my limbs felt numb, and when I wasn’t kneeling with my head over the toilet I was lying in bed. I wasn’t able to concentrate on work. Walking up and down the stairs became hard work as my energy levels dropped.
Injury or illness is often a sign to slow down. But who wants to slow down when they can keep pushing and keep achieving? Maybe because you’re supposed to be an example of health, maybe because you don’t want to lose gains. But sometimes you’re forced to. So after two days I finally gave in and accepted I was sick and stayed in bed.
The frustration of not being able to train when that’s what you do is not a comfortable or desired feeling. It’s one of the best parts of my day. But I realised it wasn’t going to happen for a while longer so I let it go. The frustration and discomfort of not being able to eat was what really got to me. Something that is so natural, and necessary for day to day function wasn’t possible. Despite barely doing anything over a couple of days I started losing weight, which you never want because that means your strength is being flushed down the toilet along with your vomit.
Unhelpful thoughts entered my head. I’m missing the sunshine and being out in the fresh air (sunshine in England is precious). I’m missing out on spending time with my friends. I’m wasting time that I could be spending doing useful things. Im wasting time doing nothing and not having fun. I’m being lazy. Except I wasn’t being lazy, I simply needed some rest.
When you take a step back and look at the situation, you have to focus on a different priority. Being healthy. Taking the time to build back up, not being impatient, and actually having a bit of self compassion. Give yourself a break. Take it one step at a time, like the stairs that feel so hard to climb just to go and get a drink from the kitchen, but it’s worth it when you get back upstairs and can fall back into bed.
It’s ridiculous how much I take for granted. I feel frustrated when I have a bad day training, but that’s a stupid attitude because at least it’s a day of being able to move around and use my body. Training seems far less important when you can’t even keep food down. Once I was able to start eating again it felt like a luxury. The simplest things like drinking a black coffee, being able to chew solid food, and waking up with the energy to get out of bed, felt magical. Like sunshine and unicorns. I could get back to work. I could go out for a walk. I didn’t need 20 hours of sleep a day. This was what I was grateful for before I even considered going and smashing out some training.
Eventually, ever so slowly, I was able to train again. I did not think “first session back, time for squats and deadlifts followed by sprints in a weight vest to finish up with!!!”. Not that that’s my usual training. I did some stretching, some locomotion and practiced handstands. I stopped before I felt tired and then went home.
Regardless of any gains you lose or how much being unwell sets you back, it brings you back to reality. You realise you aren’t invincible, and you can’t always “push through it”. You become more considerate of what you’re training, plan your sessions out more thoroughly to help get you back to where you were, and perhaps even reassess your goals. As a result you come back stronger. Don’t forget that strength comes from health. Health is the foundation for everything you do. Eat well, sleep well, take time out to relax, and then be grateful for all the handstands, all the pull ups, and all the weights you lift.