It doesn’t come out of nowhere. You can feel it brewing, churning deep within you, gathering force in the darkness. Something wicked this way comes. *COUGH*, your body lurches out of stasis and your lungs curdles up. There is a burning sensation in the throat. It feels like you had eaten glass and it got caught up in a web (of deceit and deception). Things are going to get bad. You had been doing so well, hitting all the targets, doing the necessary, but nope, something is going to derail you in the next few weeks, you just know it. It is around the corner, the flu, the migraine, the cramps, the rashes, the invasion from foreign pathogens. You have been mired in it before and escaped after a few days of torment, but good health is something we take for granted, something we toss about until it is wrested from our hands.
The worst part about training is the not-training-because-you-have-fallen-sick. Sickness is involuntary and debilitating. It makes you vulnerable when you had spent all the time before training to be anything but. It wipes out whatever gains you had worked hard on over the past few weeks and months and years. No matter how many precautions you take or protests you make, sometimes, things are beyond your control. Sometimes, a virus, a parasite takes over your body forcefully and renders it not your own. They stick a flag on it, declare themselves kings, and proceed to turn the natural order of things upside down. Skulking through the bloodstream, they exit via violent coughs, an action you have to perform for the sake of performance and doesn’t make you feel any better. They make you double down, comb through records of what you had eaten, and toss them out without a second look. Because of that, you have to be stationed near a bathroom to clean up whatever mess they cause. They rifle through your innards as if they were looking for an imaginary pot of gold, a ransom you would only be too happy to have paid if you could. You lay in bed, unable and unwilling to do anything or see anyone. Fighting the sickness seems futile at the moment. Whatever you do, whatever you touch, seems to be infected with germs. Why drag others into the misery? And you long to be healthy again, full of energy, fighting the good fight, or being able to prep for one.
The body shudders, marked by an authority that it does not recognise. “Put a hot compress!”, “drink this honey lemon!”, other people flit about, offering suggestions and ways to feel better. They don’t work. The rot is stuck right deep. It is internal; it can only be purged. Your own organs don’t obey the usual commands. The limbs lie by your side listlessly, either by their own design or swayed by the parasite. Perhaps the latter. After all, parasites live on or in other organisms and thrive to the detriment of their host. In a haze of lethargy and wretchedness, it is easy to conflate the two. You forgot which came first: the body or the parasite. You lie on the bed, feeling weak and wonder what was the moment, the exact point in the timeline, that the parasite had landed. Would it have been any different if you knew? Probably not. The sickness still persists in the present. You just want things to get back to normal!! Time to handle it.
So you drag yourself out to see the doctor, take the prescribed medicine, and hope for the best. And try not to think about how much training or work or fun you are missing out on. Not think about the stamina and progress that are being lost in the meantime. Maybe with this forced break, you can bounce back stronger and fitter than before, you can come back at 100%! Optimism is key! But you also know that the effects of being sick are real and lasting. Muscle mass has been lost, fat is put on, you don’t know if you can trust yourself to function at 100%, or if there is a new normal that is lesser than before. Maybe you are no longer as physically encumbered, but the irritations are mental now. You close your eyes, go to bed for one more night, wishing to both rewind time and to skip forward, to when all is good again. How long would that take, and what is the cost?
Eventually, you do recover. Finally! Not a moment too soon. The parasite is cast out. Toxins have been spewed. Your limbs remember how it was like to be free, to move in synchronicity with the body. You breathe deeply and exhale. Easily. All the tension and restlessness from before has been released. The natural order is restored, quite as suddenly as it was disrupted. You wonder what was the fuss all about. The body is always stronger than you give it credit for. It survives to fight another day. It was like a fever, a rash, an annoyance to process and get over. You open your eyes and see the road outstretched for your taking. And damn, you gotta make up for the lost time, so you begin to run, even though it makes you pant and wheeze, but hey, at least this time, you chose it.