The last few days my husband and I were dealing with a bit of a stomach bug. I woke up the other day and quickly realized I was not feeling well. I ended up staying in bed all day, feeling not so great. I knew I was definitely sick because I had no appetite and no desire to run and that is very unlike me. I love my food and running!
When you are sick, it is best to at least take a day away from running or other activities. But how do you know when to come back?
I am a big proponent of knowing your own body and knowing when it is ready to be pushed. The key is to be aware of signals your body is giving you. Is it hungry or thirsty? Are your muscles sore? If you feel achy, tired, or dizzy it is best not to head outdoors. If you still have a fever, stay in bed. It is very important to remember that taking a few days off from your routine is not going to hurt you or set you way back. Pushing your body when it is not ready can wear you down even more and suppress your already weakened immune system.
When you are ready to come back there are a few things to remember. First you need to hydrate. Your body is likely lacking in liquid nourishment, especially if you were vomiting or had diarrhea (don’t even squirm, we all know full well what happens to runners!). Make sure you start replacing liquids as soon as you know that your body won’t reject them. This is a good time to add some Gatorade or PowerAde to your drink list to help replace lost electrolytes. Good old fashioned water is always at the top of the list. I am not really a soda drinker, but I love ginger ale. In fact my husband and I both love Vernors, which apparently is hard to find outside of Michigan. Just our luck we were there last week and stocked up on two cases of this amazing drink! Try staying away from caffeinated beverages which will dehydrate you and also avoid acidic drinks like orange juice, it will just be too harsh on your stomach. Other caffeine free sodas such as 7up are also ok to drink as are herbal teas.
Be patient with yourself. My first run back I had grand ideas of doing a nice slow long run. Less than a mile in I realized slow was going to be a different slow for me for a few days and long was going to be a bit shorter as well. Your body just went through the wringer and still might be going through it. Don’t push yourself. Relish being back on the road or treadmill and let your body show you what pace and length it can handle. Don’t panic, this isn’t going to last forever. Your body didn’t forget everything you learned in training and with a few days of patience you will be right back where you were before.
If you simply have a head cold it is probably ok to go running. Some research shows that running actually boosts your immune system and you likely won’t make yourself sicker by getting your workout in. You still need to bundle up and listen to your body but there isn’t a reason to stay away from your daily run. Sometimes when I have a head cold my body craves that run. I almost feel like a good sweat helps flush everything out. Again, listen to your body.
Finally, treat yourself well. Drink some tea and get plenty of sleep. Grab a nap if you can or crawl into bed early. Eat as much healthy food as possible. Stick to antioxidant rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and nuts. Mom was right, there are actually healing properties to chicken noodle soup, so eat it up. Keep putting all that good stuff into your body and you will be back to normal before you know it.