Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Is it OK that I ran when I was sick?

On May 7th, I woke up feeling like I was swallowing nails around 1:00 a.m. Normally I wouldn't worry too much. But this wasn't any other day. This was race day. In 6 short hours the gun would go off and the Pittsburgh Marathon would begin.

Despite the achey throat I laced up and consulted a fellow runner friend, who advised me to grab some menthol cough drops (which ended up being a life saver). Mentally I was precisely where I needed to be - a little sore throat wasn't going to stop me.

I woke up Monday morning with a head cold and some aches, but ultimately I know I made the right decision. For that day, anyways.

If you ever find yourself unsure if your too sick to work out, I've put together some easy guidelines to help you make the decision to rest or to go for it.

Tackling the Common Cold and Allergies
Dr. Edward Laskowski, M.D., a Sports Medicine Specialist at the Mayo Clinic suggests that  "Exercise is usually OK if your signs and symptoms are all 'above the neck' --- symptoms you may have with a common cold, such as runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing or minor sore throat."

If it is allergy season that has your head congested and you prefer outdoor workouts consider moving your exercise session to the late afternoon, when pollen counts are lower.

What if it is more serious than a sneeze?
If you have fever, nausea, vomiting or respiratory distress – stay home and choose rest. Exercise while battling a more serious illness can be dangerous and may compromise recovery time.

When you have a fever, your body temperature is already too high and avoiding additional stresses is advised. Exercise raises your core body temperature and your heart rate. Physical exertion can intensify the effects of fever and leave you dehydrated or cause dizziness and fainting.

Additionally, coughing, body aches and fatigues are reason to take a break. Any sickness involving your lungs is a no-no when it comes to hitting the gym. Exercise can aggravate your lungs and lead to an infection, like bronchitis or pneumonia, which is harder to bounce back from.

Gym Etiquette with a Cold
You’ve determined that it’s safe to proceed with your scheduled exercise. If you are headed to the gym instead of outdoors you will want to follow a few simple rules for proper gym etiquette.

Avoid blowing your nose constantly and carry a towel with you at all times. Place it on any surface you come in contact with and be sure to wipe those areas down when you are done using them.

Also, be sure you are washing your hands often and consider carrying alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your gym bag. These help cut down the germs you may spread to others.

When is it safe to exercise again?
In general, any flu, even if uncomplicated, is going to knock you out for anywhere from 10 days to 2 weeks. When battling these types of illness, you should wait until you have recovered fully before resuming your exercise program.

You won’t be able to jump right back in where you left off after an extended absence. Start slowly, by lowering the intensity and duration of exercise until you feel comfortable. Starting back too soon, or too intense, puts you at risk of weakening your immune system or hurting yourself.

When your worried about a relapse
Sometimes a day of missing the gym triggers fears of a relapse. In this case it’s important to know your own limits. If missing a day of exercise will make you feel worse (which is sometimes the case with regular exercisers) consider scaling it back a notch. Try a walk instead of a run or substitute yoga in place of your regular conditioning class.

Start slow and progress to a moderate intensity – but only if you are feeling up to it. Do what you can do; if you can’t do, don’t.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Running High - It's Marathon Week!

It's that time again. When my alarm goes off on May 7th I'll be in downtown Pittsburgh and it will be race morning. That's just 6 more sleeps. Well, definitely 5 more sleeps and likely 1 night of tossing and turning.

I never know what to expect on race morning; I'm a bundle of nerves and questions. What is the weather doing? Did I train enough? Did I eat right this week? Did I hydrate enough? Did I remember my Body Glide, Blister Shield and Tylenol Arthritis? Where's the coffee? Is my Garmin charged? What about my iPod?

When I was the the recent Arts & Science of Health Promotion Conference a facilitator asked if anyone in the room had ever experienced the  "runner's high". I raised my hand, along with about 50% of the people in the room. We tend to be an active bunch. Then he asked when we experience it - and that's when I realized my answer was really it depends.

A few weeks ago I went out on a 10 mile run and never got there - something in my body just wasn't feeling it. I averaged over 11 minutes a mile; slower than even my worst marathon time. I couldn't get out of my own head. Side note: I realize I'm not elite runner but geez - that was a hard day for me!

Last week I went out for a 15 miler and I was hitting on all cylinders. My high came around the halfway point, which is about normal on longer training runs. Whether it's 8 miles or 15 miles, I fall into my rhythm around the halfway point - my confidence soars, my heart races a little faster (in a good way!) and I get a little pep in my step. "I can do this, and nothing can stop me" I think to myself.

On race morning, though, it's different. My high starts the moment the gun goes off. The beating heart, the questions and buzz in my brain, the knot in my stomach and the shaky legs - it's all in anticipation of the big event! All the training, all the anticipation comes to a head.

But then something amazing happens...I hear the pop of the gun, my legs start to move, my mind clears and I feel like I'm ready to conquer the world.

Other posts related to what I am doing this week:
Dairy, Soy & Gluten Free Race Week (PS: Last time I followed this plan I missed a PR by 2 minutes)

Steel City Greyhounds - #RunForAReason ($755 of $1,000 raised)


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