Snotty, sniffly, and stumped? Tyler Butterfield on training while sick

Ty ButterfieldHow to train on the bike when you’re a little under the weather, thanks to resident two-time Olympian, professional triathlete, and all-around nice guy, Tyler Butterfield.

Butterfield, who lives in Boulder and just celebrated the birth of his second child with his wife, Nikki, finds himself in the familiar family role of helping with the child care – namely, kindergarten drop off and pick up.

“I might as well get down and lick the classroom floors,” he says in his rich Australian-sounding accent (he grew up in Bermuda, but lived in Australia for several years). “They say if you are a parent to preschool-aged kids, you’ll likely get sick 3-4 times more often than those who aren’t constantly exposed to all the germs,” he says. “I just feel like as soon as I’m feeling well, another bug has bit me.”

This round-about has messed with his training, for sure. With Kona in his sights for 2014, and then another go at the Olympics in Rio in 2016, Butterfield is a master of re-working and re-purposing workouts to continue training when he’s feeling not quite 100%.

We caught up with Tyler on a recent snowy Saturday as he trained in the “pain cave” at Boulder Center for Sports Medicine:
“When you have a bit of a cold,” he says, “as long as it’s mild, there are ways you can continue to train without demanding too much from your respiratory system.” He is quick to note sometimes total rest is needed. “But most of the time, after a day or two of total rest you are getting better and want to get out and do an easy ride. This is a good session to do after the first easy ride or two, and before jumping into hard sessions. It is still intervals but at low heart rate & low watts but with a benefit.”

Low cadence work on the bike is his go-to workout when he is recovering from a cold. “It works really well, because when you work at a low rpm, even when the watts are low, the muscular benefit is pretty good, and you’re not taxing your lungs so much.”

He continues, “Plus, when you’re working at low cadence, the watts you’re pushing are equivalent to about double at a higher cadence. For example, if you work at 60rpm cadence and 120 watts, the torque (type of stress on legs & system) is similar to 120 rpm cadence and 240 watts. It’s a good payoff.”

The website SwimBikeRun concurs with this strategy, saying: “Riding with a low cadence and pushing against a high resistance; you are going to feel more muscular fatigue building than cardio stress. This is a great way to train while sick as it helps maintain neuromuscular pathways, making it much easier and faster to get back to normal training speeds and feeling healthy once again.”

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