I’m going to keep it real for y’all. I haven’t run in almost 3 weeks and really haven’t done much of anything else either. I got hit was some nasty crud that’s been going around and after 7 days on one antibiotic and another 10 days on a second, plus a steroid, I’m finally starting to feel like I’ve turned a corner.
The problem with all this? I have a half marathon in about 10 weeks and a 200 mile relay shortly after that. At this point, I feel like all my running ability has gone completely out the window because I can’t even walk 3 miles without being wiped out afterwards. I know it’s silly to feel that way because muscle memory is a beautiful thing, but it’s still frustrating. I know I probably could have done some yoga or something like that, but with as bad as the headache has been, the thought of being upside down for any period of time was too much to bear.
So what can you do when you’re sick to make recovery go a bit faster?
First of all, decide whether you should really be working out. I made a huge mistake by going for a run the day after my fever broke the first time. I really think this is what resulted in another 2 weeks of illness. Exercise (the sweaty, breathing heavy, you are REALLY getting a workout) type of exercise causes a stress response in the body. If your immune system is busy fighting a bad cold or the flu, working out disrupts your body’s natural ability to fight the infection. The stress of that tough workout is often more than our bodies can handle.
What to do if you’re Sick and Training for a Race:
- Take time off. If your symptoms are all above the neck (stuffy nose, headache, etc) it may be ok to perform light exercise. However, any symptoms encompassing the whole body and particularly those accompanied by a fever are your indicator to stay home. If you’ve been running a fever – use caution in working out in the 3 days after the fever has broken because your chance of a relapse goes way up – as my stupidity indicates. If you’ve had the flu or a significant viral or bacterial infection, wait at least a week before resuming any intense training.
- Hydrate like it’s your JOB. It’s always a good idea to drink plenty of water, but this is even more true when you are sick.
- Wash, wash, wash. The best way to get over being sick is to not get sick in the first place. Unfortunately, I happen to work in an environment filled with little kids and little kids bring germs. All the hand-washing in the world couldn’t help me.
- Take all your medication and follow your doctor’s advice about when to return to exercise. I was told to wait until I’d finished my antibiotics before I resumed running even though I felt a little better several days in.
- Start back gradually. My plan for next week is 3 very easy runs – 2, 3 and 4 miles in length. This week has just been walking.
- Pay attention to nutrition. This has been probably the hardest part for me – when I’m sick, I want “comfort food” so I’m focusing this week on flushing out all the crap I’ve put in my body over the past couple weeks.
- Adjust your goals. If you’ve been out for an extended period of time, you may need to rethink your overall training plan and any pace goals because it’s going to take a few weeks to get back up to where you started.
Obviously, we aren’t doctors here, so if you are sick or have been sick, consult with a physician before resuming any serious training. Common sense should prevail here and before you know it, you’ll be back up to the level you were before you got sick. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.