To Run (When Sick) or Not To Run

It seems to always be the question this time of year. You’ve been training, progressing steadily towards your pre-race goals and then, BOOM, it comes out of nowhere! You wake up with a sore throat; you’re in the middle of an afternoon meeting and feel a headache/stuffy nose combo building; you’re out on a date and keep adding layers or taking them off because the hot/cold flashes keep getting increasingly worse. And all you can seem to think about is how many miles you’re scheduled to run the next day. Ever happened to you?

Happened to me just last week. Being sick is never fun, period. When you’re training, it’s worse – a bazillion times worse. Being sick while training for a big race usually has us thinking that it’ll be a HUGE setback and we’ll lose any training we’ve already got under out belt. It would probably be best to take the day off of work, dating, life, whatever…and just nip it in the butt. Catch it before it flares up into something nasty. However, as athletes, we usually don’t. “Oh, my throat is scratchy but I can totally run those 6 miles today, not a problem.”

BEFORE you head out your door to get in your daily miles, take the “neck check test.” It’s super simple and great to use as a gauge of if you should work out when sick or not.

How does it work? Well, if your symptoms are above the neck (runny or stuffy nose, scratchy/sore throat and sneezing), then mild running will be ok to do. In fact, it might even aid in the healing process! Exercising releases adrenaline (aka epinephrin) into your system. Fun fact for the day-epinephrin is a natural decongestant. That’s always excellent news 🙂 Whether your run inside or outside, just be aware of your body and how it feels – if you start to get lightheaded or dizzy, you should probably STOP running and go rest at home for the day. Seriously, it’s for the best. If you do go, remember to bundle up! You’re still (slightly) sick.

Slightly-Bundled-Up

If your symptoms are below the neck (fatigue, muscle aches, fever, hacking cough, swollen glands, chills, diarrhea, vomiting, etc.), chances are you have a virus. This, of course, means that the absolute BEST thing you can do for yourself is to NOT run. When you exercise with conditions like these, it increases your dehydration, only making your symptoms get worse. It’s not worth it!  Take a few days to a week off. It might seem to “kill” you, but it’s what’s absolutely best for your body.

Don’t worry – if you do need to take time off from training to heal, it won’t take too much time to get back to the condition you were before you got sick. Your muscle memory is AMAZING! Give it some credit and let it work its magic. As long as you pace yourself and don’t jump in feet first to the 20+ miles you were suppose to run the day before, your fabulous body will be back in great shape and good spirits before you know it. So, don’t get down on yourself because you can’t go running. Having a positive attitude will help your recovery! The hardest part about running after getting over an illness? Starting at a good distance and pace, slowly increasing so you DON’T overload your body (which, duh, can just make you get sick again).

flu-bed

So, since the colder months are here and quickly dropping in temperatures…keep your chin up, your box of Kleenex handy, hot fluids in your body and don’t be afraid to rest and recover! Your body will thank you and you’ll be a better runner for it 🙂

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Positively Great Words To Live By

Life is amazing, isn’t it? The ability to breathe, move your body, eat delicious food and make choices every single second about what you want to do and how you’ll live-all things directly impacting your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Everyone knows that practicing good health is crucial for your well-being. Every day, we’ve got some kind of routine filled with walking, running, biking, taking the stairs, eating healthy snacks, get a good nights rest and drink the proper amount of water. There’s one thing that I believe we forget to use daily; something I think is necessary to truly living a healthy life physically, mentally and emotionally – positive affirmations and/or positive reinforcement.

Think about it – how often do you sit and blame yourself for little things that go wrong. Little things that eventually turn to big things because you’ve kept that kernel inside of you, festering and building shame towards yourself for what happened. Not cool. Incorporating positive affirmations and little mantras into each day can help keep you centered, strengthen your inner peace, build your self esteem and focus on the good that is all around you (as well as inside of you).

Affirmations and mantras encourage emotional health. Which, in turn, will directly affect your physical and mental health! Positive reminders of who we are and what we’re capable of are just as beneficial to wellness as a bright outlook on external circumstances. In other words, we NEED these! Several times a day! So, here’s a few of my favorites (some old, some new) that I’ll start out my day with and continue reading till my head hits the pillow:

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Chasing Zzz’s

As I’m sitting at work, staring at my screen, feeling like I could literally fall asleep with my hands on the keyboard…I’m realizing it’s only 9:30am and I’ve still got 6 hours to go. Geez. In the past week, I’ve had a few late nights (late for me – hit the hay at 2:30am) combined with my usual wakeup time of 5:30am. And frankly, it’s been killing me. KILLING me! I’ve done stuff like this before, and I always know what it’ll be like and that I won’t love it, and for some reason I always forget just exactly how hard sleep deprivation is on my body. Especially when I’m training!

So, what better way to pep talk myself about going to bed earlier than write a post on the importance of sleep? Though I’ve had fun choosing to stay up with friends, boys and life in general, I know I need my sleep in order to function during the day.

We’ve all been told that we need to get X amount of hours of sleep per night to live a “healthy” lifestyle. Well, when you’re training, the same rings true. Your body NEEDS things – things like water, nutrition, proper amounts of good fats and sugars AND sleep. Think about it. Who doesn’t love sleep? Or a good nap?

2013-09-20 18.16.09 {napping during the Napa Valley Ragnar}

Sleep is a necessity. For example, when recovering from a long run or intense workout, sleep is just as important as rehydration and refueling. For real. Studies have shown that lack of sleep directly interferes with the metabolism of glucose, which is what muscles depend on for proper recovery, and even though it will vary for each individual, generally speaking, someone who’s training for a marathon or other race will need more sleep than someone who isn’t training to rebuild muscle tears and support muscle growth. All for the recovery process (and because you’re usually just tired after you run 25+ miles). Sleep, along with proper hydration, nutrition, stretching and strength conditioning, should be incorporated into your training schedule – regardless of what you’re training for.

Silhouetted Woman Running at Sunset

Sleep also directly affects your immune system. Get this – those who have 6 hours or less of sleep per night have 50% LESS immunity protection than those who get 8 hours of sleep. If you’re training and feel you may be getting a cold, make sure you get at least 8 hours of sleep each night! One, for recovery and two, for immunity strength so you can continue in your training instead of holding off for healing.

Lack of sleep has also been linked to weight gain. There’s a hormone in your brain – Leptin – that regulates your appetite, and when you don’t get enough sleep, it isn’t secreted in accurate amounts, which can lead to more cravings during the day…more eating than normal…and weight gain. True story.

Now, the amount of sleep needed for top performance will be different for everyone. You may be able to function just fine on 4 hours while your friend needs at least 9 to perform well. Figuring out where you land on the sleep spectrum will totally help with your training!

If you can’t sleep the night before a race – don’t sweat it too much. Experts have found that just like nutrition, it’s the sleep you get 2 nights before a race that your body will be relying on for the majority of your race. I have lots of friends who carb load the night before a race. Though I don’t think that’s a bad thing, I don’t follow it religiously. The same is with sleep – I have one friend in particular who runs ultra marathons and two days before any race, he’ll take either some melatonin or Tylenol PM and knock himself out for a good 12 hour night of sleep. Says it helps him with the mental battle you deal with while running 50+ miles. That’s what works for him.

One thing is for sure – I know that when I stick to my sleep schedule and don’t vary on the weekends, my mind is more clear during a race and my muscles don’t fatigue quite as quickly. My recovery is also better and I’m able to get back to training right away instead of taking days to recoup and nurse my muscles back to health 🙂 This has been true during holidays, when I’m on vacation or just during a “regular” week of work and training. Plus, I’m always naturally happier when I get enough sleep! EVERYONE IS. And who doesn’t want to be happier?

All that being said…time to start chasing some zzz’s! Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream…

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