Colds & Flu- To Run Or Not To Run

Many runners ask me if they should continue running when they have a cold.  The answer isn’t always easy, but it certainly is if you have the flu.

I’ve touched upon this subject in the past, but I wanted to take a look at this topic again, because we were visited by both in the past few weeks.  Firsthand knowledge is always helpful.  Or at least, that is the positive spin I am trying to put on this situation.

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The whole family got hit with a bug!

Several years ago I attended a fantastic presentation given by Matt Fitzgerald, one of the leading experts in the sport of running.  One of the attendees asked Mr. Fitzgerald his opinion on running with a cold.  He firmly replied that if you have a cold and are not running a fever, it is fine to run.  In fact, some research shows that running might help shorten your cold and ease some of the symptoms.

Running releases adrenaline, which not only boosts your mood after a workout, but it can also work as a decongestant.  This can help break up some of that stuffiness you might be feeling.

Many runners ask me what they should do when they have a cold and are training for races and I always recommend that you listen to your body.  If you are feeling achy or really under the weather, skip a workout and enjoy the rest.  However, if you are experiencing a runny nose and nagging cough, a slow and easy run might give you that boost to feel better for the rest of the day and get rid of some of that stuffiness that is making you feel so miserable.  Just plan on bringing along tissues or turning into a snotty mess.

A few weeks ago, I started the weekend out with some annoying stuffiness and chest congestion.  I used my runs as a way to get things moving along and generally felt better.  By Monday morning, I woke up feeling like my stomach was on fire.  I chalked it up to eating a lot of crappy food that I normally don’t consume over the weekend.

Two days later, my stomach was still feeling awful.  I was lethargic and my muscles felt wiped out.  I tried going for a run, hoping a good sweat would help, but ended up doing run/walk intervals to get me through.  It was then that I realized, I wasn’t just dealing with a cold.  Something had hit me and I needed to graciously bow out of the running game.

Later in the week, we got a call from school.  Our 3 year old came home with a sick tummy.  After several days of fevers, she was on the mend.  Her good friend Daniel Tiger gave the best advice she needed, “When you are sick, rest is best.  Rest is best.”  Thank you tiger friend for giving our wild 3 year old the understanding that sometimes we just need to slow down.

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Rest really is best. Two days later!

When it comes to the flu, or times when you have a fever, muscle aches, or lethargy, it is time to rest.  Skip the run and spend some time on the couch or back in bed.  We runners know all about recovery when it comes to our training plans.  Sometimes our health has other plans.  If you have the flu or other symptoms that sideline you, push the training plan aside and opt for rest.

Don’t fret that it will hurt your training.  In fact, if you try to push through with a plan while you are truly sick, you are going to delay your recovery.  A few days or even a week off, if carefully planned, will not sideline you.  Take a look at your plan or chat with your coach and find a way to adjust.  You can almost always find a way to make things work.

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Listen to the expert.

If you have a cold, ease up on your runs.  It might be a good idea to skip speed work.  Slow your runs down and focus on quality aerobic workouts.  These are your base, the foundation, of your training.  In the long run, you aren’t going to get faster by pushing the pace when you are run down.  Instead, focus on building that base of your training by slowing down and just getting in some miles.

Never underestimate the power of a healthy eating plan and hydration.  Drink plenty of fluids when you are feeling under the weather and avoid dairy, which might worsen your congestion.

What do you prefer to do when you aren’t feeling well?  Do you find that you feel better after a run when you have a cold?

The Benefits Of Hiring A Running Coach

If you have followed my blog for a while, you know that I love running and coaching.  If you are new, welcome!  Stick around for the end of this post because I am doing a HUGE GIVEAWAY today!

I have been an athletic coach for almost 20 years (yikes!) and have had my RRCA coaching certification for several years now.  I love the sport and enjoy studying it from all angles and learning from the best in the sport.  I myself use a coach to help write plans that better my running and keep me healthy (yes even running coaches hire running coaches!).

So why hire a running coach?

I have now coached hundreds of runners from beginner through advanced and for distances from 5k’s to the marathon.  Over the years I have heard countless stories about how someone is not looking forward to training for a half or a full because they did a race in the past and had a horrible experience.

After discussing their experience for awhile, a few things usually come to light.  Most often, these athletes didn’t follow a training plan and that made the race absolutely miserable.  Other athletes followed a cookie cutter plan they found online.  While this was a good start, many of them get injured because the plan was too much for them.  And others strayed from the plan and weren’t prepared come race day.

Training for a race of any distance is a hard task, but it should be something that is enjoyable and it should be tailored to your needs.  Having a plan that is meant for you and only you, is one of the best ways to ensure that you enjoy the process, stay healthy, and have the best race experience possible. It will still be difficult, but it will likely be far more enjoyable.

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What should you look for in a running coach?

No coach is going to be the perfect fit for everyone.  Some personalities click and other’s just aren’t meant to work together.  Have you ever taken a course by a renowned professor, only to be disappointed in their style?  It’s totally okay and that’s why you should interview with prospective coaches.

When approaching a running coach, you should first receive a prompt response.  If you call or e-mail, they should return your inquiry within 24 hours in most cases.

You should be given a free consultation either in person or over the phone (virtual training can be fantastic for many athletes and saves lots of money too).  This consultation should be used to get to know you as an athlete better.  You should be asked questions about your experience, your goals, your schedule, your ability to fit workouts in and what you prefer, as well as a health and injury history.

After this discussion you should be given some options of different types of training that might work best for you.  A coach shouldn’t make promises about PR’s or race times, but should be able to give you a realistic idea of what you should expect.  They should be up front about how much a plan should cost as well as how long you need to reach your goals.

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Your coach should make clear what you should expect out of them.  Will they give you weekly training?  Are you purchasing a one time plan?  What happens if you end up injured and need help?  Do you have the option to contact your coach at any time or do they contact you throughout your training?  Are there additional options you can add to your plan, and what will the cost be?  Transparency is key in any working relationship.  Always ask about what you will be receiving and for how long.

In the end, it is about what is best for you.  Training with a coach should be an enjoyable experience.  Your coach should help you to feel more confident as a runner and clear up any of those questions you felt were lingering in your previous training cycles.  A good coach should make you feel great about your journey and give you the confidence to reach your goals.  Keep in mind that sometimes our goals are a bit lofty and a great coach should find a nice way to show you what is realistic in the near and potentially distant future.

Have you ever used a running coach?  How do you like to approach your training?

To celebrate the start of summer training season, I want to kick things off with a GIVEAWAY!  I am giving away one FREE consultation and training plan for the race of your choice.  All you have to do is comment below and tell me what race you would love to receive a plan for.  I will do a drawing and announce the winner at the end of next week!