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When Grind Season Meets Flu Season

Let me set the scene:

It the was weekend before our last 2K test, and I was feeling good. I was feeling really good going into it.

To provide some context for those who may not know, a 2K erg test is a great way for coaches to rank and boat their rowers by testing how fast he or she can pull on the rowing machine for 2,000 meters. Because it is both physically and mentally taxing, the week leading up to the test is the most crucial time to prep your body and mind. Going into a 2K test with the best possible mindset is almost as important as making sure you are also physically in the best possible shape.

I had my mindset down. With a few seasonal PRs under my belt from everyday practices, and a trajectory to do the same for the upcoming test, I knew I was being both optimistic and realistic in my plan. Check for a sound mind.

And my body was feeling pretty good too. It had, after all, brought me to beating my previous best times, and though it was feeling sore and achy at night, it was nothing I was worried about.

Monday night: the night before the big day. I had started to feel unusually sleepy that afternoon, but I trusted that my body just needed some extra rest before the test, and I went to bed as early as I could.

But Tuesday morning: I woke up feeling awful. In an attempt to spare you the gross details, I’ll just leave it to I woke up with the stomach flu and fever. Definitely not a great way to start test day.

I only felt this overwhelming sense of guilt that everyone else on my team was doing more than me, doing better than me.

Spending all day in bed on Tuesday, the day I was supposed to test, and Wednesday, the day I missed both morning practice and a lift session, was hard for me. When I was awake, I only felt this overwhelming sense of guilt that everyone else on my team was doing more than me, doing better than me. I could not shake the wave of shame that consumed me for choosing to miss practice so I could sleep more, instead of picking up right back where I left off on Monday morning. But sleep would wash over me again, as my body begged for recovery on its own.

I - prematurely - decided to return to practice that Thursday. With food finally staying down in my stomach and my head no longer spinning when I stood, I felt mentally ready to make up the days I had missed, and really get after it. I didn’t listen to what my body was telling me, though, and had an extremely difficult time getting through the relatively lighter workout. I had to concede to the fact that my body was not done recovering, even though my mind wanted it to.

I started to talk to my coach about how I felt like I was failing myself as well my team, and she stopped me and let me know that being sick took time to get over, and that I certainly wasn't failing anyone for taking that time to heal. Her words were the reassurance I needed to realize just how ridiculous I sounded. I was sick, and there was nothing I could do about that. I needed time to recover. And that was that.

I took the necessary steps to actually get better by taking medicine, staying hydrated, and most importantly, staying in bed. As an athlete, your body goes through incredible wear and tear everyday, and being sick is a sign that what your body needs to get better may not actually be that morning practice or that extra workout.

Only you know your body, only you can make the call when you need to keep pushing forward, or take a step back

Staying in the grind season means being the best version of yourself for your team, your coach, and yourself, of course - all day, everyday. But in times of illness and physical or mental exhaustion, there is a choice only you can make. Only you know your body, only you can make the call when you need to keep pushing forward, or take a step back and recover. And that’s not always an easy call to make.

Listen to your body, and be smart about how you handle this upcoming season. The grind never stops, that’s true. But sometimes your body may need to.

The grind never stops. But sometimes your body may need to.