"To Run or Not to Run... What to Do When You're Sick"|
by Mindy Solkin
You've been training well for the past several months, feeling fit and strong and then, whammo, you wake up one morning with a sore throat and a stuffy nose. But your running schedule calls for four miles, should you run?
It would probably be best to take the day off, to nip it in the bud, but "Type A" runners that we are, you probably decide to run, anyway. Before you lace up those running shoes, take the "neck check test". If your symptoms are "above the neck"… runny or stuffy nose, sneezing or sore throat, a little easy running probably won't do any harm and, in fact, might even help. Exercise releases adrenaline, also called epinephrine, a natural decongestant, which may explain why a run seems to clear nasal passages. Whether you choose to run indoors or out, monitor your body for any symptoms such as dizziness, nausea or profuse sweating and STOP RUNNING if any of these symptoms occur.
If, on the other hand, you have "below the neck" symptoms… fever, fatigue, muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, sweats, swollen glands or a hacking cough, then this indicates that you probably have a virus. Running under these conditions increases dehydration and can lead to more serious problems, so DO NOT RUN. Take off the next few days to a week. And don't worry, you will not lose too much of your conditioning. It will just take a little effort to get back to where you left off, but the body is very resilient and has great "memory", so it generally won't take as long as you think. You may, however, have to adjust your training schedule to get back on track without overdoing it and start back by doing less mileage and incorporating some walking into your run.
Obviously, the best way to not lose training time is to prevent a cold or virus from starting. OK, easier said than done. So, what can you do?
- Wash your hands frequently (or use hand sanitizer) especially after riding on public transportation or coming into contact with cold sufferers.
- If you share an office phone or computer keyboard, keep Lysol handy and spray when necessary. Spray a clean cloth or paper towel, first, then wipe. Or you can also just spray into the air.
- Avoid using public telephones (much easier now that we have cell phones).
- Avoid young children. OK, difficult to do if you're a parent or teacher, but kids pass along many colds and viruses. Keep washing your hands!
- Take vitamin C. Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling believed in it and he lived to be 93!
- Take zinc lozenges. Take these at the moment you feel any signs of illness.
- Stay out of airplanes. OK, tough to do for many of you with traveling jobs, but stay well hydrated on the plane.
- Try herbal teas. Echinacea is best.
- When all else fails, good old-fashioned chicken soup works wonders. It's warm, it keeps you hydrated (especially with the amount of salt that's in it), and for those of you who are far from home, it reminds you of Mom. And didn't Mom always make you feel better?
Mindy Solkin is the Owner and Head Coach of The Running CenterTM. She is
certified by USA Track & Field (USATF) as a Level III Running Coach (the
highest level) and by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) as a personal
Known as "Coach Mindy" to her runners, she has coached thousands of people
over the past ten years, helping them to achieve their goals on the open
roads and the winding trail, whether it is running their first mile or
pursuing their personal best in the marathon.
Mindy was the creator of the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society's Team In Training
marathon program in New York City and served as its Head Coach from 1994
through 2001. From 1995 through 2002 training over 3,000 runners to run marathons in cities around the world, Mindy was the Head Coach at Reebok
Sports Club/NY. She is also the creator of the Polar Heart Bra® and has been
a PowerBar® Team Elite athlete since 1994. She can be reached at www.TheRunningCenter.com.