As (tri-)athletes a lot of us hate the idea of needing to take time off training, planned rest days are bad enough but unplanned ones really nag at us.

I have been no different over the past week. I returned from Ironman Austria on July 10 and the following day I had a pain and swelling on my forehead. The doctor the following day decided it was an allergic reaction, to what I have no idea.

I usually measure my resting HR daily but didn’t in the week leading up to and after the Ironman. In the week after the Ironman I would expect it to be higher than usual anyway so it is unlikely that RHR would have helped in establishing if there was something wrong with me.

Last week my RHR reading were in the 50s and 60s BPM which is 25-30 BPM above what I would normally record and a clear sign that something wasn’t right even if it would be higher than usual from the Ironman.

Nonetheless after more than a week of not having trained after the Ironman I felt it was time to get back into the fitness regime and get ready for the next event (even though I wasn’t entirely sure what that would be). So I did a 30 min run on Tuesday of last week, followed by a 40 min run on Wednesday and a 30 min swim on Thursday.

The legs felt tired on the first run but overall the body felt fine in all 3 training sessions. My resting HR over the following days though continued to rise and I recorded an RHR of over 70 on Sunday. After the swim session on Thursday I took the decision to stop training until the RHR calmed down and the “allergic reaction” went away. Another visit to doctor decided that it wasn’t an allergic reaction but a viral infection which in the meantime was affecting other parts of my head.

Come Monday things started to normalise as my RHR dipped below 50 again and the infection was making signs of easing off. Although temptation has been high to get out and train again I am waiting at the moment for all signs of the infection to disappear.

The biggest fear with enforced rest often is that we lose fitness and strength from the recent training that we have done and from the training we were not able to do. On the one hand the fitness loss is not as big as often believed and there is a chance that I will be able to take strength from the added break as my body will be able to return to training more rested than it usually would. If I wouldn’t have trained last week I might have been able to speed up recovery from the illness on the other hand. It is somewhat unusual for me to ignore my resting HR readings.

Lesson from this is to take the time off to let your body recover if it is clear that something is not right and I had enough signs of that last week.