I’ve always prided myself on my ability to stay relatively healthy without taking vitamins or medicine. Looks like, as with everything else, times change.
Athletes since the beginning of time have had to deal with illness, injuries, and just plain feeling low when it’s time to compete. It’s part of the process. You can’t expect that the day the "big race" comes, you’ll be in perfect health, or feeling great. Sometimes you just have to deal with it, put whatever it is behind you, and perform anyway.
With that said, for the past few days, I’ve been feeling a bit worse. Yesterday I went to the pool for a swim, and had a really tough time filling my lungs during my breath. My push-offs were shorter, I had to adjust my breathing pattern in freestyle to every stroke, and forget about breaststroke… no way I could go as deep as I wanted on an underwater pull because of the water pressure compressed my lungs to the point I’d just have to start coughing. NOT a good thing when you’re completely submerged in the water.
There are a couple points I want to hit with this article. 1) I should have paid more attention to sick people around me, and not tried to be the guy that never gets sick. 2) I’m obviously not as young as I used to be, and my immune system is going to need some help as I get older (vitamins, proper diet, medicine when necessary). 3) I needed to get more sleep when I started feeling bad. 4) Finally, let’s say I did have a competition coming up that meant something, what would I have done to avoid what I’m feeling now?
I’m a kinda stubborn guy… I’m not one that accepts that something can’t be done, or that something is going to affect me the same way it does other people. When people around me get sick, I feel bad for them, but in some way, wonder what they did wrong to get sick in the first place. I go back in my mind to when I was an athlete, to when being healthy really mattered (I know… it’s crazy… I know it matters now too). I think of everything in how it impacts performance. When I was an athlete, I would see people who were getting sick, and I’d avoid them. I’d try to make sure that whatever they had, I wouldn’t get. Solution #1 for not getting sick… avoid sick people. This will be very important as you get closer to your championship season.
Being a middle-aged guy, I also like to eat what I want to eat. Vitamins for me came in the shape of Fred Flintstone…. chewable. It’s been about that long since I regularly took any kind of nutritional supplement. To be honest, I really never gave it much thought, if I wasn’t getting what I needed through the nutritious (chicken wings and Doritos) food I was eating, chances are my body didn’t really need it. Because I rarely if ever got sick, why even pay attention to it? Even if I did get sick, I figured it would run it’s course and I’d just ignore whatever it was. I treated colds, flu, and fever kinda like I treat snow covering the driveway… eventually God would melt it and who am I to stand in the way of nature doing what it’s going to do anyway. Solution #2 for not getting sick… give your body the tools necessary to fight off illness. Proper nutrition; and if you’re not providing your body with it’s daily requirements, taking into consideration training, work, lack of rest, etc. then you’re going to have to do something to even the table… take some vitamins.
One of my favorite quotes is… sleep is for wimps. I generally survive on 4-5 hours of sleep a night. People have been telling me for about 20 years it’s not enough, but if I somehow end up falling asleep at 9… I’m wide awake at 2 in the morning, wondering what I’m gonna do now. Staring at a dark ceiling just isn’t much fun. The problem is simple though. Over time, this does add up, and the body starts to lose it’s ability to perform. Even if you’re the kind of person who’s mind doesn’t require much sleep, your body may. Solution #3 for not getting sick… get your rest.
Long story short, I’m really feeling horrible the last couple of days. It’s my own fault as I know now that I could have avoided so much of this, so simply. When I was an actual athlete, I would have… but now I guess I just figured it didn’t matter that much, so I just went about my business ignoring the signs.
It’s February now, which means many young swimmers are going to be gearing up for the big meets. 30-45 days from now, people will want to be swimming REALLY fast. You, as athletes, can’t afford to risk your entire season on whether you’ll be sick or not. Be proactive about your health and you’ll go into the championship meet without sniffles, coughs, or feeling weak.
With that said. I’m going back to bed and getting some rest with my favorite new drink pictured above.