Bummer…it’s cold and flu season and I’m a little under the weather this week. We runners often walk a fine line between health and illness. Long hours of training tax our immune systems and overtraining can leave us vulnerable to the dreaded cold virus. After 34 years of running, I’ve finally incorporated some common sense rules when a cold strikes me down.
The generally accepted rule is this – if your symptoms are occurring from the neck up (runny nose, stuffiness, sneezing), it’s okay to continue easy training. If your symptoms also include the chest and respiratory track (cough, fever, body aches, chills), discontinue exercise until these symptoms subside. One hard-and-fast rule – never run or exercise when you’re running a fever.
Continuing to train through a cold can lead to lingering sinus and lung infections, sidelining the athlete for a much longer period.
If you’ve recently completed a long endurance event (triathlon, marathon, etc), your odds of getting sick afterwards can be up to six times higher than normal. As a preventive measure, I really throttle back on training during the first few weeks following a strenuous, long distance race. This allows my system to recover and rebuild.
If you’re recovering from a severe cold or the flu, it’s a smart idea to only resume training after the symptoms have completely disappeared. Go for an easy run, ride, or swim at first and wait one to two weeks before resuming your normal training load. You run the risk of relapse if you rush back into full-on training mode.
Keep in mind it usually takes about seven to ten days for a cold virus to run its course. I totally rest until I’m feeling better.
Cold Prevention Tips
Experts recommend washing your hands often since viruses are most often transmitted by touch. It’s never a bad idea to carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your gym bag, backpack, or purse to use when you know you’ve been in contact with someone who is sneezing or coughing.
If you run the heater in your house or workplace during the colder months, this can dry out your sinuses and trigger cold-like symptoms. I run a humidifier in my living space from November until March. My sinuses feel much better and it’s also good for my dry skin.
Cold viruses are an inevitable part of life. Take a well-deserved break from training and rest. You’ll be back on the roads soon enough.