It’s important to be honest with yourself and learn from injury and illness.

Written by: Courtney Baird

When it comes to illness and training, you have to be honest with yourself.

Several weeks ago, I was sent home from work with a cold. I spent the next four miserable days in my apartment, watching bad TV, eating spicy Thai coconut soup and blowing my nose.

I was doing everything right—things I would have never done a few years ago, like taking time off work or cutting back on my training. In fact, I had stopped training altogether—except for some light walking—and I was pounding the vitamin C and Cold-Eeze.

I would be back to regular training in no time—and I was.

But the problem was, I wasn’t being honest with myself.

Although I felt like my energy was back, I was still coughing a little, and my nose was still running. If I had had the sense to accurately assess the situation, I would have told myself to wait a few more days before I jumped back into things. But I didn’t. Instead, I went right back to regular training.

Because of my impatience, my cold lingered for weeks, and my last race of the season was a disaster.

In my defense, I feel like my frame of reference was a little skewed. Last year, I pushed things too hard in training and, as a consequence, came down with walking pneumonia. I could barely stand or sit, let alone run. After months of illness, I questioned if I would ever feel better again, or if I would just be an invalid for the rest of my life.

In the grand scheme of things, I felt like I learned a lot from the pneumonia. I learned where to draw the line in training—when to hold back so I wouldn’t push myself over the edge. Put simply, I learned how to not drive myself into a hole.

But apparently I didn’t learn how to dig myself out of the hole.

More specifically, I didn’t learn how to properly assess my body so I could nurse it back to health. If it wasn’t pneumonia and I wasn’t on the brink of death—if it was just something I picked up from my coworkers in close quarters—then it was nothing.

Unfortunately, it was something. But, on the bright side of things, I learned from my most recent setback. I learned that I have to be honest with myself when I’m coming back from an illness—even if it’s just a cold—and that I should only get back to training when I’m ready.

I hope you can learn from this, too.


Courtney Baird is senior editor of Inside Triathlon magazine. She ran Division 1 cross country and track and now competes in triathlons as an elite age-grouper. She can be reached by e-mail at