HAVE YOU BEEN HIT WITH A COLD THIS WINTER? If so, you may have tried to “tough it out” and continued running without resting and treating your body with extra TLC. How did that work for you? Coach Jay Johnson’s newsletter brings up the topic and refers followers to articles that he wrote earlier, “Should You Run with a Cold?” and “How Should I Run Now That I’m Over My Sickness?” for Active.com.
He cautions against skipping the needed rest. Instead he explains why it's better for your running plan to skip a few days on your feet, saying that those who don't take time off are likely to pay for the few days running with greater delays in getting back to meaningful training workouts.
“If you can find the discipline to take days off from running when you are sick, then you will probably miss fewer days in the long run.” Running with a cold is likely to prolong its duration and delay your performing the next scheduled high quality workout or long run on your plan, he says.
To get back to training after an illness, Johnson follows a “85-90% rule”. He recommends runners take a few days off when sick, and if feeling 85% better on the 3rd day, allow themselves an easy aerobic run of about 10-15 minutes or 1-2 miles. He advises that to safely run a long or tough workout run, you should be 100% fully recovered, and also be at 100% on the DAY BEFORE that hard routine! He provides scenarios that help to understand how this might work in everyday training.
Another IMPORTANT bit of caution from medical experts: not all ‘colds’ are the same. Common viral infections that cause head colds are accompanied by a sore throat, cough, sneezing, nasal congestion, and a runny nose. Usually symptoms are confined to areas above the shoulders, although there will often be mild fatigue. BODY-WIDE symptoms like chills and aches indicate the body is reacting more significantly to an infection, either viral or bacterial. If you have a cold with FEVER, which means a temperature of 100.4 degrees F or higher, you SHOULD NOT be running. PERIOD. Always check your temperature with a good thermometer when you are sick, everyday, especially in the evening.
Usually a fever is accompanied by a headache and muscle aches, and a greater level of fatigue that is called malaise. The presence of fever with a head cold suggests you have an influenza (flu) virus infection or flu-like illness. The only way to know for sure if you're infected with an influenza strain or some other virus is to perform a culture. An article from WebMD explains how to decide if you have a common cold or the ‘flu’.
There is an EXCELLENT article written by A Marc Harrison MD, originally for Triathlete magazine and later published by Active.com, "Scare Tactics to Prevent You from Exercising While Sick". In it he explains what happens in your body during an acute febrile (with fever) illness and why you should refrain from working out when you are experiencing systemic (body-wide) symptoms. A FEVER is not always present but is such a reliable and objective indicator of the systemic physical response to infection that it should not be ignored.
One of the dreaded complications of a systemic acute infection is inflammation of the heart muscle, or myocarditis. Be sure to read this part of Dr. Harrison's article, as it is what will scare you sufficiently to take appropriate care of yourself when sick.
Be mindful also that a simple upper respiratory tract (URT) viral infection which results in a common cold can spread beyond the air passages of the head and neck into ‘deeper” parts of your respiratory system, like the airways to the lungs (bronchitis) and lung tissue itself (pneumonia). A viral head cold can weaken the normal defense mechanisms of the respiratory tract and allow bacteria to cause a secondary infection. Therefore, the days you rest with a simple cold represent a kind of insurance policy against developing something more serious.
Think a bit beyond running when you have a cold, to your total health and to that of others around you to whom you are contagious early on in the illness.
I had a cold without fever over the holidays and followed Johnson’s advice. Although feeling 100% before and after running a few miles and throughout most of each day, for about 7-10 days I became much more tired after sundown. So, another bit of advice to runners recovering from colds is to anticipate needing a few additional hours of sleep on the days you run, and expecting to want to get into bed earlier.
RUN AND REST HAPPY!
BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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