On a typical training day in July, Gillian Clayton, triathlete, wife and mom of two, set out for a routine training bike ride. She had no idea at the time that she would spend the next three months recovering from pneumonia.
Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that affects millions of people worldwide each year, often characterized by cough, fever and shortness of breath, but also chest pain, headache or feeling run down. In the case of endurance athletes, who are used to feeling discomfort during high intensity training, some early signs of illnesses like pneumonia are often falsely attributed to the workout.
"I went for a 90 km bike ride that day,” Clayton said, “I felt great and I could have done more. When I woke up the next morning, I felt like I was run over by a truck." After her diagnosis, Clayton was bedridden for two weeks, then further lost a full 10 weeks of training while recovering – training that was meant to prepare her for the 2017 Victoria Marathon.
Once she was able to resume training, Clayton took a relaxed approach. "I was so happy to get out and not worry about how fast I was going. I didn't look at my watch. I didn't set any goals." Soon she was able to run for one hour and credits her fitness level for speeding up her recovery time. (Instead of waiting until 2018 to compete in the Victoria Marathon, Clayton ran it this year after just six weeks of training.)
In this colder, wetter weather, and with flu season in full swing, Clayton recommends, first and foremost, listening to your body. If you feel unwell, she says, take a few days off, ease up on the training, and if it persists, see a doctor. Once you resume training, ramp up gradually and be sure to refuel, repair and rehydrate as part of your recovery and regular workout regime.