Sometimes staying in bed is a good idea.
This past week my daughter was sick. She's an infant, so a runny nose means an ear infection, which means lots of crying, which means no sleeping -- for anybody.
Ear infections, while painful, are actually pretty easy fixes once you get some antibiotics. But it got me thinking about all the times I've been sick and pulled myself out of bed after a sleepless night for a workout. I remember at a cross country meet, my coach offered to dig a grave for me at the finish line when I showed up with a barking cough. It's true — most runners don't like to skip a workout because they're not feeling well. I mean, racing practically means forcing yourself to not feel good for some set amount of time. So wouldn't working out while ill just be good practice for pushing yourself to the limit? Well ... sometimes ...
When to shrug it off and lace the shoes up.
Your typical head cold can come with you on your morning run. Headaches, runny noses, minor congestion, and sneezing probably won't get any worse with your regular fitness routine. In fact, the endorphins will probably help you feel a little better. A lot of times it's harder to sleep when you've got a cold. Well, a workout is good for that, too. Sleep always comes easier when you've got a regular exercise routine going.
So when should you stay in bed?
When symptoms are "below the neck," according to Dr. William Roberts, professor at the University of Minnesota. What does that mean? Well, if you're stomach sick (i.e., vomiting or having gastrointestinal distress), experiencing body aches, a deep cough, or a fever, feel free to turn your alarm off and pull the blankets over your head.
But there's an exception to the neck rule: sinus infections.
Sinus infections are decidedly in your head: the pressure, the congestion, the sniffles all target your head, right? But sinusitis can develop into something more intense (like pneumonia) if you don't give your sinus cavities the break they deserve. Still gotta run? Go for a jog in the pool. The water will keep your nasal passages moist, which will prevent further irritation.
Pushing yourself too hard while sick can have major consequences. Not only can it prolong your illness, sometimes it can cause something similar to chronic fatigue syndrome. Putting your heart under that much strain is not good for your body. Working your muscles while they're already aching can lead to injury.
Listen to your body. If your thermometer is running high, stay in bed. Or use this handy chart from Women's Running. (It applies to guys, too!) Sometimes taking a day or two — or even three — of rest can get you back in the game faster than pushing yourself harder.
The Run-Around is a weekly feature, focusing on fitness in and around Annapolis, MD.