I don't think I have ever met an athlete that has not gone through a point in their athletic career where they have been faced with illness or injury that has set them back in achieving their goals. For me, this happened last season when I got glandular fever after the second round of the 2018/19 Ironwoman Series. One of the things that I found really useful while I was sick was to read stories from other athletes and how they dealt with similar adversity. Everyone deals with sickness and injury differently and there are a million different ways to go about it, but you can only find what's right for you by experimenting with things other people have done. So, I want to share my experience of dealing with this mid-season crisis, in the hope it can help someone who finds themselves in a similar situation.

My way of recovering from glandular was to convert all the effort I put into training into my recovery. Instead of setting training goals, I made recovery goals. The best thing about this was that it gave me structure and purpose, things I would normally find in my training.



This was the goal that I knew I would struggle with the most. The only recovery for glandular fever is rest and I have a very bad track record of this. Whenever I would come down with a cold during the season and doctors would recommend a week off training, I never lasted longer than 2 days or so. I would convince myself that I felt better and that it would be fine to push through it. I knew that if I wanted to avoid having glandular for a long period of time or getting chronic fatigue that I would not be able to cheat this rest. Being an athlete, this is much easier said than done. Being stuck indoors not being able to move makes me severely unhappy, which isn't a good sight for anyone. So, I decided to find things that I could do during the times that I would normally have training.

In the morning when I woke up my training session was to meditate somewhere outside. This ended up being way more useful than I thought it would be as it become a way to help me stay relaxed. Training is my way of relieving stress so finding another way to deal with that was really helpful. My afternoon session included going for a small walk or a swim at the beach. I still had to spend a lot of time inside but having these breaks in the day made it so much easier to cope with.

 This is a bit of a weird goal, and everyone's definition of being healthy is different. For me this meant filling my body with as much good stuff as I could. My thought process was that if I was only putting good things into my body, it would have the best ability to recover. I usually only eat a wholefoods and organic diet, but I became stricter than I had ever been once I got sick. I didn't eat anything that was refined or processed and hardly anything that came out of packet. Initially I thought I would have to cut down what I ate by a lot so I wouldn't put on weight while I wasn't training, however, I ate almost as much as I normally would. I didn't put on any weight, in fact I still lost quite a lot, but this was mostly muscle mass. This was because my body needed as much energy as it could to help fight off the virus. I became really into cooking because I had so much time, this was also something I really enjoyed. Other things that I did to help this was to go and see a naturopath. I know this is not for some people, but I found it really helpful and enjoyable.

As devastated as I was when I got glandular, at the end of the day there was nothing I could do about it. So, throughout the journey I tried to find as many positive outcomes from it as I could. There were the little positives, such as having the time re-watch Game Of Thrones and getting to sleep in every single morning. Then there were bigger positives, such as re-discovering how important the sport is to me, how lucky I am to be involved in such a great lifestyle and that I don't have to define myself through my competitive results.

It might have been my determination to meet all these goals, or just luck, but my glandular virus only lasted for two months. I was able to compete in the last three rounds of the series and finish the season. It was such a rollercoaster of a season, but I learnt so much and am so grateful for everything that happened. If there is one thing that I would say is the most important thing to remember whilst dealing with illness or injury is to let it take its time. Even though this obstacle may prevent you from reaching a certain goal, there will always be new goals you can make. The most important thing is to make a full recovery so that you can continue to do everything you want to do without facing more troubles.

- by Lizzie Welborn.

Follow Lizzie & her Ironwoman journey at @lizziewelborn or on Facebook.

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