Running while sick, that is.
This is one of those things that it really depends on a couple things: your body, for starters; how (or where) you’re sick, secondly; and whom you ask.
Of course, no one knows your body better than you. That goes without saying. What works for some people, or what does (or doesn’t) bother them, is sheer hell for others. Take the common cold, for instance. It affects people very differently. We all probably know people who are sick far more frequently than others and just as well, the people at the opposite end of the spectrum, who seem that they are somehow living in their own separate untouchable/super-healthy world because they manage to evade sickness and the common cold every single year.
Luckily–knock on wood this holds true–I’m in the latter camp.
I just don’t get sick very often.
I think my lack of sickness comes in large part because of my lifestyle, but I also think my diet (strict vegetarianism, borderline veganism) has a lot to do with it, too. It’s all anecdotal, but I think there’s something to it. I think I’m just one of the freaks that can avoid sickness for some reason or, maybe more scientifically, cold and flu symptoms don’t seem to affect me as they do others. I don’t really know. I’m just lucky, I’m guess. And incredibly, incredibly grateful.
So anyway, last week, on basically the morning that I ran Cary, I fell ill. The day before, my throat was a little sore all day, but I chalked it up to allergies (which I wasn’t diagnosed with until I was an undergrad, and even then I was dubious at my doctor’s diagnosis. Still am, to a degree. I guess it is a little hard to live in the Midwest, though, without having some semblance of allergies. Digression.). Saturday night into Sunday morning, the day of the race, I woke up several times because I thought my throat was burning. Fast-forward to later in the day, after awakening at 5am, driving over an hour to Cary, and running a half marathon on hills and in humidity, and after spending several hours with a friend and her baby, I drop another two and a half hours at a clinic in Rockford to be told that I had viral sinusitis.
Not a sinus infection (which was my Erin diagnosis), but worse than a cold or just another annoyance from seasonal allergies. Bad enough for me take some OTCs, some prescription-strength codeine, and to call in sick (to A, ha!) for a day, and to (gasp!) not run for about four days. It’s actually a bit comical to write about now, because it doesn’t sound that bad, but good Lord, last week was miserable. As much as I can recall, I haven’t been that sick since well before I was pregnant, so sometime in 2010, if not 2009.
When you’re sick only once every few years, it kinda blows when you finally realize you’re not as invincible as you thought.
I wanted to keep running, once I had my couple days of rest following Tuesday, because last week was supposed to be a build week that would end on a 20 on Saturday and the Shuffle on Sunday. I didn’t want to lose four days of workouts to this annoying sickness that found me in bed all day once last week and taking medicine every four hours all the other days to help offer some relief. My mind was saying go for it, but my body was saying no-the-fuck-way.
So this is where the debate comes in regarding when and how much people should exercise, in general, or run, specifically, while ill.
A quick Google search will indicate that some use the above/below the neck rule–that if you have a cold and it’s “above” your neck, that it’s ok to run or exercise, but to not overdo it, but if it’s “below,” then stay in bed and take a rest day (or two or three).
Others offer more strict prescriptive approaches, maintaining that there’s actually a hard-and-fast number–and for most runners, it’s 60 miles per week–that sets runners over the edge into compromising their immune systems enough that’ll set themselves over into illness territory.
And of course, diagnosing this stuff based on what the interwebs say is always something of a joke, because a lot of the pages end with the obligatory “stop what you’re doing and call your doctor if you’re experiencing any chest pain or shortness of breath” warning that they probably have to post for everyone out there who is more inclined to read something online and take it to heart than they are to listen to their own bodies.
So what ultimately happened last week?
I listened to my body (and my family).
I was lazy.
I didn’t do much of anything at all last week, until Friday, when I finally ran a very easy five miles before the weekend’s schedule. All told, at least right now, I’m glad I did what I did because it’s better to be sidelined with something annoying like this for four days than something far worse for four weeks.
Sometimes it’s just a matter of swallowing my pride (and my phelgm… eww).