Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Running While Sick.....or Hurt! AHHHHHH!

Me icing my foot after a run.
Runners are a peculiar bunch. The run calls to a runner like gold calls to a pirate. Arrrgg! Runners have to almost have an "In your face" attitude to pain. We will run when our brain is begging us to stop, when our bodies start rebelling, when hurt, when sick.
Sometimes this is a good thing.
Like when you are at mile 20 of a marathon and everything in you is saying, "Give up and stop this running stupid". Or when you start the day knowing you have to get a run in....and it is pouring down the rain, or snow. No matter what, that run is going to get done.
Sometimes, however, it is not wise to continue or even start the run. This is when you are sick or injured. But how sick or injured should you be to bag the run?
About 3 years ago in July, I had a 16 mile long run I needed to complete. I did not want to do it alone, so I called my good friend Ron. He got all the running buddies together, including a friend who had moved away but happened to be in town that weekend. We were going to meet EARLY Friday morning to run. However, on Thursday I started feeling BAD! I really thought it was a sinus infection or something small, so I chose to go out and start the run. It was 2 loops of 8 miles, starting at the MAC. At mile 4, I thought I was going to die! No really, I thought I was going to die. I wasn't sweating, I was clammy, I was cold. Ron had to stay back with me and kept asking what was wrong. Not good. So I finished up the 8 miles and told them I did not think I could do anymore. I got into the car and looked at my throat. It was white. Strep! I called the doctor. They were able to get me in that morning. He confirmed it was Strep. Then proceeded to chew my face off for running. He explained the tremendous stress I put on my heart and all the other near death things that could have happened. It took me about a week to really feel normal again. The run caused me to get sicker than I would have if I would have just skipped it.

Marc, Erin, Kim, and me after the run. I had strep.

So needless to say, that was not a wise choice. Even though (in my defence) I really did think it was a little cold or sinus infection. So when should you run or bag the run? It is a delicate balance. My copy of Runner's World* (from December, 2005, pp. 39-40) suggests:

  • (for the most part) use the above the neck rule. If you have symptoms that are above the neck (like runny nose, slight head cold, sinus drainage) it is OK to run. However, if you have symptoms below the neck (like you are coughing up a lung, having trouble breathing, flu like symptoms) bag the run.
  • If you have a fever, bag back talk! Just take a day or two to get yourself healed up.
  • If in doubt, bag it. A run can cause small symptoms to become bigger. If you can take a day off it allows your body to fight off the nastiness. The run just adds more stress to the body.
  • If you are puking your brains out before the run...just stay home. No one wants you out there making a mess.

Now what about injuries? Well this is also a tricky subject, but again, when in doubt, it may be better to bag the run. Assuming you are not just a cry baby just trying to get out of a run..... Oh, did I say that out loud.... Just kid'n. =-) If a part of your body hurts before, during, or after a run, there are some things you can do to help. R.I.C.E. No, I am not telling you to go eat, but chocolate has to have some kind of healing qualities, I need a brownie.....But I digress.

R.I.C.E. means:

  • R=Rest. This means cease activity. I would suggest at least 24-72 hours then try the run again. If it continues to hurt, you may want to go see a doctor. It is better to catch something early and get it fixed. The longer you run on it, the worse it could get.
  • I=Ice. Ice the area after the run on and off for no longer than 15 minutes at a time. You can get a fancy ice pack or just some frozen peas...but remember not to eat them...uggg! If you are in pain and choose not to run, you can still ice. Same principles apply.
  • C=Compress. Just wrap the area. Matt and I use K-tape, thanks to Ricky (who just ran his 51st marathon). You can get it at Run For Your Life University or online. Not sure about the other stores that have it in stock. This helps with protecting the area, giving a bit more stability, and such.
  • E=Elevate. Prop it up when you can. I know this is not easy because we are all very busy, but this is trying to get better so you can run. Priorities....Ha Ha!

Like I said, if you do all this and are still in pain, find a doctor who understands runners and go to see him/her. Let said doctor know that if they tell you just to stop running you will hit them in the head with your running shoe. Once again, I did not mean that to be typed, but you get the picture.

Now, with all that said, what can you do to prevent sickness or injury? I understand you cannot always prevent, but these tips may help. Well at least they work for me.

  • Change your running shoes every 300 to 500 miles depending on your weight. If you are heavier, they will break down faster. I change my shoes out every 300-350 miles. This means I am getting new running shoes every 2 to 3 months depending on where I am in training. Now that may seem expensive, but it is cheaper than knee replacement.
  • Speaking of running shoes, get you a good pair that fits your needs, running style, pronation, blah, blah, blah. I suggest going to a local running store and getting fitted. Run For Your Life will watch you run and access your running needs. I wear Asics 2150 because I pronate and run upon my toes. I like the local running store because when I go in there, they know my name, races, and running needs. I also feel like I am supporting a local business. A few months ago, I decided to try another type of shoe. I bought them, took them home, and did 17 miles of workouts in them. They DID NOT work. So I took them back. Run For Your Life exchanged them for a shoe that did work for me. That says a lot.
  • Drink lots of water. This will help with injury and sickness.
  • Get enough sleep. You need sleep!
  • Eat right. This will keep your body fit and healthy.
  • Don't increase mileage or speed suddenly. You are begging to get hurt or sick if you do this.
  • Take at least 1 rest day a as I say, not as I do. This helps physically and decreases burnout.
  • I hear cross training helps, but that is another post.

So here are some tips. Take them for what they are worth. I am not a doctor, but I do play one on TV.... no not really.

Happy Running Friends!

*Oh, and just in case you were wondering.... Yes, I do keep all my Runner's World and sometimes reread them. I am cheesy like that.

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