A question I’ve been hearing a lot lately…
With the flu/cold season here what’s the tip for when to ride or not ride if you have phlegm in the lungs versus a head cold? What cure do pro riders use to avoid and/or beat it?
This is a very timely question, since the flu season is one of the worst in years. Knowing when to ride on or not is a very difficult question and as is the case so many time in medicine, it depends. When you are obviously sick, hacking up phlegm and have a sinus headache, this is certainly no time to be training. I have seen pro riders train while they are deathly sick and it wound up costing them a month of training. The key is good timing. The flu affects the human body in 3 stages. In the initial stage, you usually feel alright, but you know something is different and you are showing some flu like symptoms. This means that you were exposed more than a couple of days ago. The second stage is where you feel like a train hit you. Energy is gone, you are using a box of tissues every day, and you might even feel tightness in your chest, like a bronchitis or pneumonia. The third stage is when you are starting to make a turn around from the peak of the illness.
Regarding when you should ride or not, it is probably fine to ride and train in the first stage, as long as you have excellent recovery. By recovery, I mean letting your body go to sleep when the sun goes down and not waking up till the sun comes up – a good 10 hours or so. It is also important that you have very good nutrition. By nutrition I mean bone broth, whole foods, nothing processed, soups, etc. It would seem obvious that you should not train during the second stage of the flu, but we all know those guys who cannot put their bike down and the end of the world has arrived if they don’t turn the pedals. Do everything you can to get good rest and nutrition. I often find that just letting the body fast (not eating) and just drinking bone broth with a lot of good salt really helps. Don’t be afraid to get in the sauna and let your body sweat it out (be careful not to expose others). The other thing that helps a ton is using a nebulizer. A nebulizer is a machine that aerosolizes salt water. Most pharmacies sell them and you will need a prescription from your doctor is you are going to put medication like albuterol in it. But just using salt water can help as well. And if you are really sick, go see your physician. Sometimes a flu turns into a bronchitis and then a pneumonia.
When you arrive at the third stage of the flu, things are getting better and this is the time to start thinking about throwing your leg over the bike and going for a spin. Let your body sweat a little and again, hit the sauna. I cannot over emphasize the letting your body recover part. Pro riders often heal faster from colds and illnesses simply because they are pros. Think about it, when a pro gets sick, they have the ability to go to bed early, wake up late, and sleep in between if needed. Their only job is to get better so they can start real training again. They also have access to massages and very good nutrition in most cases. Us working stiffs don’t have those luxuries at our disposal. Most of us go to work at all costs for that almighty pay check. There is no magic herbs or vitamins the pros take that really beats the flu, the remedy is in the dose, and the pros dose themselves with a ton more recovery than we do.
Some simple tips you can use to combat the spread of the flu virus are to avoid close contact, stay at home when you are sick, cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze, clean your hands, and eat good nutrition by eating real foods and cutting out processed junk.
To your health, Doc Edwards