Plenty of people will tell you that when you are ill you should rest up and see the illness through. However this is easier said than done for those of us who love / need to exercise. We know that training may suffer if we take rest and hence will try to exercise on through an injury, niggle or illness. But the big question is how bad does the illness need to be that will cause us to take a forced break?
Now it’s pretty obvious if you’re unable to get out of bed as you have the flu but the common cold doesn’t ordinarily cause you to be bedridden. The theory goes, so I’ve read, if the symptoms are above your neck then you are ok to exercise, below and you should rest. I thought I’d put this theory to test.
I got a cold. Probably due to enjoying life through beer and whiskey too much one Saturday which coincided with the day I’d ran 15 miles. I’ve heard that your body’s immune system is weakened after strenuous exercise and that run was strenuous. So to pile my body with alcohol and a late night probable meant I was susceptible to any illness I came into contact with. I woke up Sunday morning with stiff legs and more than a hangover. I was sneezing and the head ached and was stuffy. The cold arrived. That day was a rest day so I just rested and camped out on the sofa periodically sneezing and stretching. Monday came after a restless sleep and the sneezing continued. I had it in my head I couldn’t run so I didn’t. Was this just in my head? The guilt set in, I was due to run 8km that Monday and I wasn’t going to do it. I’d made up my mind in the morning. And that was that. Monday I didn’t run. Tuesday came and after a bit of google research I decided I shouldn’t use the cold as an excuse not to run. I decided I would try and run as much as I could without making myself feel worse. So on Tuesday I ran but only a nice easy 5km. Not following the training plan but following the rule of thumb that I’d run as much as my body would let me.
The 5km were easy, maybe sluggish on the feet but felt ok and even cleared the blockage from my right nostril. Wednesday came and I ran 6km. Which again felt good. I felt that I was doing time on my legs and raising my heart rate which was in turn keeping my fitness level up.
The cold seemed to be being kept at bay, still a runny nose but less stuffy. Thursday came and I ran the 8km home from work. This was a terrible run, from the start I felt like I wanted it to end but I persevered and got home in a record of the longest it’s taken me!! It felt sluggish and I didn’t feel right. However waking up on Friday the cold was dissipating and was almost gone. I decided to rest and also rest on Saturday as my long run was planned for Sunday.
The Sunday run was to see me run 17miles an extra 2 miles onto the last LSR. I felt OK for it, having the cold meant I hadn’t done a lot of mileage during the week but had meant I’d rested my legs which I think may have helped me run those 17miles. I felt good at the end too. Cold completely gone in 1 whole week.
I’m not sure what this proves, as the cold may have taken it’s natural course or exercising may have sweat the illness out. But whatever it is I managed to keep my training on track and increase my mileage that week. Incidentally, I drove the course I ran and found it to be 18.4 miles. Run keeper had measured 17.5 miles. I think I did well that week not to fall behind.
In celebration of the way I felt at the end of that run I decided to run up Schiehallion, a Munro in Scotland. This was the second time I’d been up it this year, the previous time being April where we hiked up it and the idea of running it came to mind when I saw two guys running down. The seed was sown there and whilst I was in the area it would have been rude not to attempt it. So I did. 1hr 28 to do the 10km there and back. Not a fast run by any means but the path is steep and the top is boulderish which takes skill walking nevermind running!! It ended up being a walk run but was fun nonetheless.