Got a cold? You can thank your cycling mates for that

Got over the horizontal view of Christmas yet? Actually been back on the bike? The weather’s not doing us any favours in that department, is it? 

I wouldn’t get too worked up about it if I were you, it won’t be long before your head’s being propped up by a cushion again as you lie there suffering from the common cold. 

I actually thought I’d got away with it but I should have known not to be so cocky, especially when I walked into the pub and everyone, to a man, was coughing and spluttering like they’d just inhaled a can of pepper spray. 

As I write, I’m not feeling that bad, not really even ranking a two on the man-flu meter if I’m honest, which means it got me for all of a day, two at the most. This falls far short of the standard ‘three days coming, three days here, three days going’ theory of the common cold which does more or less tend to be fairly accurate. 

So this was a mini-cold, a little taster, and all the more dangerous for it because I’m at that point where I feel I could probably go out and do something that passes as exercise. A bike ride, a gym session, something like that. 

Someone on Twitter was having a similar dilemma the other day. “What do I do?” she begged of her followers. “Do I try and ride out my cold?” 

I Google this almost every time I get a cold and can emphatically say don’t. That is don’t exercise, or even Google it. All that “it’s OK to exercise as long as the illness is above the neck” (as in a cold) is nonsense and believe me, it won’t be above the neck for long if you do. It will be down on your chest in a hacking cough before you can say “Bob Fleming,” and if you’re particularly unlucky you’ll end up with pneumonia. 

Think about it logically. Your body is battling a virus, which is an invasion of a foreign body that is doing its best to make you feel like crap. If you then force your body to divert some of its fight away from the virus to go off and repair muscle tissue that you’ve brazenly ripped apart in a workout, it’s clear that your little army of antibodies is going to be spread a bit thin. In a worst case scenario, it could lose the fight, at least for a while, and you’ll be laid up with something a lot more serious than a cold. 

That’s before we even think about all the other poor buggers you’re infecting in the gym. I once got mumps from the gym. Mumps. Do you know what that can do to a grown man? It can leave your little soldiers firing blanks for one thing. And I still don’t have children! In fairness it was either the gym or the train or some random surface I touched but the point is that someone was wandering around with mumps, when they should have been at home recovering. Inconsiderate baskets. 

So do us all a favour when you’ve got the snuffles and give the gym a rest for a bit. Also, and think logically about this, forget the group ride. I’m certain I get a lot of my colds from fellow cyclists who are “just getting over” one. When you’re riding in someone’s slipstream you’re basically inhaling any spores the rider in front might have. And then you’re sitting around festering in damp cycling kit. It’s like a moving petri dish. 

Perhaps it would be advisable to adopt the Japanese approach to cold treatment, and put a surgical mask on when you’re suffering. Suck it up. It’s only your own snot. 

In fact, let’s introduce face masks period. Or at the least as a punishment for those who like to despatch snot rockets. I got one on the arm the other day by some filthy swine riding ahead of me. Could have been where my cold came from for all I know. 
Anyway just off to the gym to spread the love.

This column first appeared on www.thetimes.co.uk/onyourbike on January 8 2016