Please help. I keep getting ill after a few intense sessions of training. It’s so frustrating. Soon as I think I’m getting fitter and where I want to be, I get ill and have to spend a few days off the bike. 

What is happening, and is there any way to stop this from happening?

Simon C

This seems to be quite a common complaint from a lot of riders, especially those who are attempting high-intensity training during the winter. There may be a few reasons why this is happening to you, firstly let’s explore the training aspect.

Some of the benefits of high intensity training are that sessions may be less time consuming and performance gains can often be quite impressive. However, these gains can be easily lost if you are not following some important guidelines.

For high-intensity training to be at its most effective, it is crucial that you already have a good level of aerobic fitness. Quite simply, this means your body will not only be able to perform the training at its maximum potential, but also that recovery will be more efficient.

Recovery is as important as the effort, and the quality and duration must be adequate for the type of training. Furthermore, prolonged periods of many weeks of high-intensity training can stress the body beyond its ability to recover fully.

This is why many athletes ‘phase’ their training and initially engage in a block of low intensity, high-volume aerobic work, and drop the volume of training as the intensity rises. Often, most blocks of high intensity training last no longer than four to six weeks, and feature a week of active recovery or adaptation before the start of the next phase.

The next thing to consider is how you are getting ill. When you engage in high-intensity training, it places great stress on the body and the immune system can often struggle to protect you. How you manage your lifestyle and diet is critical here.

Ensure you follow a dietary plan that will aid both fuelling for exercise and recovery, and avoid situations where you can pick up germs. Elite athletes are very concious of how easy it is to pick up a virus when they are in the middle of a hard training block, and will always carry anti-bacterial hand gel to make sure they minimise the risk of catching any bugs through bacteria in their daily activities.

Rob Mortlock – British Cycling Level Three Coach