Marathon Training while you are sick

Posted: August 22, 2011 in Training
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It seems like every training cycle there is something there to make what is already a daunting 18-week minefield even tougher to navigate.

Whether it is the standard aches and pains that go along with preparing for a marathon, a difficult travel schedule that makes your workouts tough to get in, an actual training injury, difficult weather or becoming a new parent, it seems like there is always something to complicate things.

With the NYC Marathon now just 76 days away, I have had a pretty easy go of it thus far.  Sure on Wednesday this summer will officially become the hottest in Austin’s history – just three more 100 degree days stand in our way to that dubious distinction – but from a health and injury standpoint, it’s been smooth sailing.

But just when you think that things are going great, is when Lady Marathon humbles you.  This time in the form of a virus I picked up either traveling last week, or from little Miss Landry’s school.  Either way, my usually reliable breathing apparatus is down for the count.

Sore throat, stuffed up nose, poor sleep as every hour or so my nose is completely blocked and I am unable to breathe normally.  I can only imagine the logs I am sawing when I do fall asleep, to Dawn, I apologize.

But with 27 miles on the schedule this weekend, just now reaching the meat and potatoes portion of the training plan, you can’t just mail it in and hope for the best.  Saturday’s 9 mile run at Marathon Pace followed by Sunday’s 18 mile long run came at a key point in the training cycle.

This is the point where we will run 1/2 as far as our Sunday Long Run on Saturday at Marathon Race Pace.  Followed up by a slower, steady state long run on tired legs that stretch 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22 miles.  Then after a couple of race weekends at the IBM Uptown Classic and the Denver Rock and Roll Half-Marathon we will run our final 21 miler before tapering for NYC.

This is the “dues paying” portion of our training calendar.  Tempo Tuesdays, Mid-Week Long Runs, Hill Repeat Thursdays, Saturday Pace runs and Sunday long runs.  That is the formula to get us to NYC in the best shape of our life as we try to drop another PR on the marathon November 6th.

So out the door we went on Saturday throwing down a 9-miler at 7:15 min./mile pace, then an 18.3 mile long run in 2:26:13 on Sunday.

Which begs the question I get asked a lot, especially in the winter months when it seems many runners are fighting colds.  Is it o.k. to run while I am sick?

My response is always the same.

Sometimes.

There have been a lot of studies done on the effects of exercise when an athlete is under the weather.  What appears to be the general consensus is that if your symptoms are “Above the Neck”, you are good to go.  (Sneezing, stuffy nose, sore throat etc.)

However if your symptoms are “Below the Neck”, things like a chest cold, bronchial infection, body ache – then rest is what is in order.  If you push yourself while experiencing these types of problems, you could be asking for big trouble down the line.

I am a big believer in the “Neck Rule”, if I am just fighting through cold-like symptoms, I dial back the intensity just a bit, about :10-:15 seconds a mile and go through my standard workout.  Whatever is scheduled.

The only thing I add to the neck rule is a quick check of my temperature.  Your temperature while you are running commonly increases a couple of degrees while you are out there.  That is not an issue when you are starting at or near 98.6.  But if you are leaving the house with an elevated temperature, again, you could be asking for trouble.  99 or so, not a big deal, but if you are anything above just a slight temperature, it simply isn’t worth it and you are better served taking the day off or moving around your rest days that week to get some extra rest.

Today was supposed to be a strength training day.  We’ll be skipping that and simply taking a complete rest day, hoping to get this congestion under control so we are ready for Tuesday’s Hill Repeat session as we will be out of town this Thursday.  We’ll be out in Charleston, SC where the steepest hill won’t quite get it done in the Low Country of South Carolina, so we’ll mix things up a bit and flip-flop our Tuesday and Thursday workouts.

As runners we are very regimented.  We hate to miss workouts, hate to stray from our schedule, but sometimes situations dictate that we become a little more flexible and train “Smart” instead of always training “Hard”

Happy trails everyone!

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