Rest Up: When Sickness Sidelines Your Training
Even though winter—and the corresponding flu season—is in our rearview mirrors, that doesn’t mean that a summer cold or other maleficent virus can’t sideline you—and your training. Here are some tips on whether to know if you should keep plowing forward or take a break.
When you’re feeling less than healthy, the general rule of thumb for exercise is this: If the illness is in or above your neck, like a head cold or a mild sore throat, it’s usually okay to continue on as planned. That said, take in extra fluids and get extra rest. But if your head cold—or the medication you're taking for it—leaves you a little woozy, opt to cross-train in the gym or at home, so you're not stranded 2.5 miles away from home.
If the illness has migrated to your lungs (a rattling, painful cough), intestines (you’re spending an inordinate time in the bathroom), or anywhere else below your neck, then it’s time to simply rest. Chill for a minimum of two days, and possibly longer, depending on your symptoms. (Obviously, if it’s a significant illness, head to your doctor and heed his/her advice.)
Once you’re feeling better—it may be 2 days, it may be a week—head out for an easy run. Even if your training plan calls for hill repeats, simply go a few miles at a very comfortable pace (which just be a fast walk, depending on how long you’ve been out). If that feels doable and you feel fine at the end—not like you’ve just used every drop of energy you have—you can ease back into your regular running routine over the next week.
Bottom line? Err on the side of caution when you’re getting over an illness; your body needs to slow down, and you need to listen to it. Missing a week of running, in the scheme of things, is not a big deal. If you force it and start running before your body is ready, chances are, you’re going to end up prolonging or intensifying the situation and really set yourself back.
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Sarah Bowen Shea and Dimity McDowell are the authors of Another Mother Runner and official contributors to runDisney.