January has been cold for me. As in, one cold after another. It’s hard to avoid illness with two small children who seem to pick up every germ around from friends, school, and play school. While our house has happily avoided major illness, these smaller, but still vicious and surprisingly long-lived sicknesses keep me on a roller coaster of: “Ooooh no, I’m getting a headache!….. ahhhh the sinus pressure! Oooooh, body aches (sob)!… oh sweet relief, but hand me another tissue please!….I think – I think I feel better! I’m alive. Let’s go running! Oh no, what is this headache and heavy limbed-feeling (sniffle)?….” and so on.
Over, and over.
We’re only in late January, so I anticipate I’ve at least 3 more colds to cycle through before I think I’m in the clear. In the meantime, many runners ask what to do to fend off, or once ill, to recover from illness. While my perspective may include the extra hazard of two little germ-festivals at home, I’ll reiterate the basics for all winter runners. Take my word with a grain of salt, and of course, if you’re seriously ill, please see a health professional right away.
- Stay hydrated. Water, water, water. I drink tea like it’s going out of style most of the year ‘round, but I’m especially diligent during winter months, when I’m not necessarily “feeling” as thirsty as I would during the hot summers.
- Wash your hands. Do it again. Sneeze? Wash. Cough? Wash. Touch a communal surface? Wash. Back from the store? Wash! Hold your kiddo’s hand they just wiped their nose with? You got it: both of you wash your hands! There are a lot of miracle cures for the common cold bandied about, but one that all doctors agree upon is frequent hand washing.
- Sleep: The moment you feel that initial headache, bodyache, or feel your nasal passages beginning to flow, pencil yourself in for a full night of sleep. Prepare yourself by avoiding caffeine late in the day, turning off those blue emitting cell phones/other devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime, and sleep in a cool, dark room. Coughing and sick? Stay home, rest & recover.
- Train appropriately. When it comes to your training – hold yourself in check. Like most runners, I try to deny that I’ll fall to most illnesses. That denial can lead to you over-stressing your ailing body, resulting in a more serious illness, and a prolonged recovery time (which means longer time away from high-quality training). So, if you’re feeling sick, or think you might be coming down with an illness, take the day off, or at least hold off on that killer workout until you’re feeling better.
- Fuel for recovery. Being sick doesn’t give you a pass on continuing to put quality nutrients into your body. Chicken soup has both anti-inflammatory properties as well as offering a hydration source and a mental and physical comfort. Keep some bright fruits and vegetables, and quality protein sources in your diet as well.
- Get your flu shot. Debating modeled efficacy, the flu shot is a no-brainer if you value your health and the health of those around you — especially if you interact with small children or the elderly/immunocompromised.
I personally haven’t been training in any serious way this month as I’ve been on the sickness roller coaster, but I have been keeping a steady routine of strength training, and my basic running has been fairly steady. Also fun: after 7 years of steady use, I also managed to lose my Garmin watch over Christmas, so I’ve been largely running “old fashioned” (sans watch) for the month of January. It’s been incredibly freeing and has been a great shake-up during this month of unpredictable running. I admit to having a numbers-break down about a week ago, however, so I borrowed a watch from a friend until a new one arrives in the mail.
More on digital vs “GPS free” running in a later blog. I’m off to brew another cup of tea!