Here we go again.
It’s getting to be the time of year when many of us start to wince as we hear the first coughs, sniffles, and sneezes of the season.
For much of the population, that means fretting about a day or two of missed school or work. For runners, the stakes are a little different.
After all, work will always be there when you get back. Your fitness level, on the other hand, may not.
For runners (and athletes in general), getting sick means not only falling behind due to missed workouts, but losing ground on the work you’ve been doing week after week.
We’ll be sure to do plenty of posts about managing sickness and getting back on your feet, but let’s start off with a couple of ways to help you avoid coming down with something in the first place.
Eat right. With all kinds of food-centric holidays coming down the pike, many of us are forced to navigate culinary temptations that would be unheard of any other time of year. A little indulgence is one thing…just be sure to mix plenty of fruit, vegetables, and lean protein into the mix. A stack of cookies may have tons of calories, but the real issue is the lack of nutrition. Keep eating good stuff.
Drink plenty. Our bodies simply perform better when they are well-hydrated. Drink plenty of water, whether you are planning to train or not. If the weather begins to get chilly, remember that just because you aren’t drenched in sweat doesn’t mean you aren’t losing water. The dry air is simply soaking it up instead of your t-shirt.
Sleep well. It can be tempting – even for those who maintain great discipline when it comes to diet, exercise, and other things – to skimp on sleep. There’s nothing heroic about operating on zero sleep if it means you’re going to feel lousy and get sick down the line. Take care of yourself. Record your favorite late TV show or pull yourself away from your computer an hour early if you need to find a way to squeeze in some extra shut-eye.
Run hard. If you do find yourself training while a bit under the weather, keep in mind that not all workouts are created equal. This might seem counterintuitive, but in this case a hard, intense workout may treat you better than a longer, slower-paced one. Some of the resources your immune system uses to fight off an illness are the same ones used by your muscles when grinding through a long workout. A good high-intensity run or other activity can help your body focus on getting healthy rather than simply becoming more worn out.
Remember, the time to get aggressive about getting healthy is before you get sick. If you do start to feel a symptom or two sneaking up on you, be sure to follow the tips above to nip it in the bud. And above all else, if your body is telling you that it needs a day off, give it one. Don’t sabotage your whole training plan for the sake of forcing a workout that might not be a good idea in the first place.
Stay healthy out there!