Race Preparation tips #6: Too sick to train?

They told me that endurance running can make one vulnerable to being sick: the immune system is compromised, one is fatigued, and lots of people want to congratulate you with a handshake, cuddle or sponsorship endorsement. (Well, maybe not the last one!)  But having run 50km last weekend, I’m sick! (The first time in over two years, I have to say!)

So when it comes to training, how sick is too sick?* (*Remember, I’m not medically trained – these are training tips, not medical advice.)  One traditional rule of thumb is the Neck Check. Neck-Up: If you have a runny nose, sore throat, sniffles, you probably can keep training. However you may want to pull back on time, distance and expectations. 32 days out from MM16, it won’t hurt to have a few days of lighter running, easier gym work or yoga/stretching. (At the moment I’ve chosen not to run in the rain – something I wouldn’t normally think twice about.)  Neck down: If you have a temperature, productive cough, vomiting or diarrhea you should stop training, see a doctor – and your workmates would appreciate it if you stayed home too!

Another helpful gauge is your resting heart rate (HR). Many running watches or fitbits come with built in HR monitors that you could use. Alternatively, use your alarmclock or iphone as a timer; find your pulse and start counting. Make a note of your HR before you get out of bed in the morning. Just as your HR is higher when you are in an intense training period, (in an off season, my resting HR can be as low as 44bpm; at the moment its up around 50bpm) the sicker you are, the higher your HR. Your heart rate is a good indication of your body at rest or working hard (sickness, physical training, work or personal stress, temperature, etc). Remember that your resting HR is your own – 65bpm may be normal for you!

If you train when sick, it will take you longer for your body to recover.  You are better to recover now, than still being sick in 2 weeks when you want to do your final long run! (And hey, you might even enjoy the sleep in!)

Training Tip #6: If you are sick, assess how much you should be training – slow down or stop!

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