2012 Renewal — Should I run / walk when I am sick with a cold?

Mark Russell is one of the owners of Metro Run and Walk and is an avid walker and runner.

Mark Russell is one of the owners of Metro Run and Walk and is an avid walker and runner.

Tale of the Tape Through Week Eight

Weight:  January 1 = 189, February 26 = 180.0  8 weeks,  loss of 9.0 lbs.  Ahead of 1 lb per week pace.

Mileage: Week 8 run/walk miles: 26.8.  Average weekly mileage: 36.9.  Above target min of 35 mi/wk.

Running and walking when sick with a cold

So, I caught a bug… what happens to my training schedule?  Well, I retreat to that tried and true answer I used so many times in a former business consulting career:  it depends.

If you get sick, the most important thing is that you take care of you body and not complicate and make worse your condition.  You should also pay attention to why you might have gotten sick in the 1st place.  And do not mistake the ramblings of this blogger as medical advice best gotten from your doctor.

But having said that, here are some guidelines I have found useful as I try and walk the fine line between being dedicated and foolish.

Mentally check whether you could be over-trained or under-rested

Too many miles and workouts and/or too little sleep and rest days compromise your body’s ability to ward off sickness.  And it is not just the stress of training workouts — life stress like your job, relationships, etc. can add to the total picture.  Do a mental check of the past few weeks of training and rest.  Also consider whether you were directly exposed to a specific bug.  If you suspect over-training, and you can’t pinpoint the person you could have caught the bug from,  you could have overextended yourself.

I learned a long time ago that whenever I have tested my limits on distance runs (like long runs during marathon training), I should add on extra sleep for the next few days.  That fixed the annoying habit of me getting sick many times right after long runs.

My mental check on my current cold concluded that I was not overtrained.  Even though my weekly miles are higher than 2011, my legs have been feeling good, I have been sleeping well, and I had just built in a ‘pause’ week 2 weeks ago (see below for more on a ‘pause’ week).  To top it off, my daughter had exactly the same cold that I caught.

Recognize that your body is in a weakened condition overall and in the affected areas

If you have a fever, stay off your feet.  Your body is systemically compromised.

If you have congestion in your chest, do not ask your lungs to perform.

If you have digestive trouble on either end, recognize that you can easily have dehydration and reduced nutrition.

One popular guideline that seems to work…

I have heard for years that if you are sick above the neck with no fever — something like a mild sore throat, congested sinuses/ears, runny nose, sneezing, etc. — then going out short and easy every other day may be OK.  I tend to consider this option after the cold has set in and stabilized so I know what I have.  Then as I am fighting back to getting healthy, I mix in some light miles every other day.

Take advantage of the down time as a ‘pause’ week.

A ‘pause’ week is my term for a purposeful pullback on total miles for the week.  When you are aggressively pushing your fitness training,  you can likely benefit from a slightly easier week every 4-5 weeks — just a 25+% reduction in total miles so you body can catch up.  Since I starting my health and fitness renewal in 2012, my total weekly miles have been:  35, 39, 36, 40, 42, 32, 44,  27.  The variability of these totals are driven mostly by my long Sunday run.  The 5th week was a mini pause — I shortened one run day and skipped a walk day because my legs were feeling oveloaded.  But last week’s 27 was me taking Saturday and Sunday (long) off due to my cold.  My legs will love that break,  my upcoming weekday runs will be extra enjoyable, and I will be in better shape to take on my 18 miler next Sunday.   The break mandated by your sickness can actually help your training!  Embrace that ‘pause’ week and get better!


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