Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Oh No...I Have a Cold But I Need to Train! What Now?

I swear it's been one thing after another for me so far this season. My vision of ramping up quickly and easily for tri season is quickly and easily fading. This week it's a cold. Doesn't sound like much, yet it's totally thrown off my training this week. Sunday's swim was rough. My Monday afternoon lunch run was a hot mess. My Tuesday training was non-existent. So here we are now in the middle of the week and I am just hoping to get in a halfway decent run tonight and maybe a swim should the tri gods feel so generous as to grant me the energy for this.

I know I am not the only one to experience this "I want to train but I'm sick" dilemna. In fact half of my office alone is sick right now as were two of my kids so I am fairly sure that there is a nasty cold going around right now. This post is dedicated to how to fight off a cold and get back to training quickly.

What do the Docs say?

A little Google search for common cold revealed a plethora of websites with information on how to treat the cold. Ready for the answer? Brace yourself my fellow athletes...the first item on the list is a nasty four letter word...REST!
  • Rest - in other words take it easy and take a day or two off or otherwise significantly decrease the duration and intensity of your training.
  • Drink - drink lots of water, juice, electrolyte-rich drinks and beer. Just kidding about the beer. I know it was a cruel joke.
  • No alcohol - this is not the time to party. Give it up. A glass of red wine with dinner may be acceptable but shots of tequila are generally not advisable.
  • Zinc - Many people feel taking zinc supplements can help shorten the lifespan of a cold. 
  • Vitamin C - Again it is thought that adding vitamin c can help your immune system fight off a cold faster. Vitamin E is also a good one to add.
  • Treat pain/fever with ibuprofen - generally take this every 4-6 hours as needed. On the plus side the rest and ibuprofen should be good for nursing any aches or lingering injuries you may have from training.
  • Herbal tea with honey - Tea when you're sick is a win/win. It helps you hydrate, soothes your senses and provides antioxidants that can help fight off a cold.
  • Sore throat - gargle with warm salt water, use lozenges or ice chips for soothing.
  • Runny or stuffy nose - use saline or allergy medicine or vick's inhaler to aid in nasal ailments.
  • Coughing - use cough drops, drink tea, use cough medicine as needed.
  • Ease back into activity - when returning to training from rest take it easy for a day or two, even a week until your body feels strong and recovered fully.
Hopefully you avoid the cold this season...unlike me. If not, relax and rest, allow your body to recover and you'll be back to training at your normal level soon. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Agony of Injury. How to Cope With and Prevent Common Running Injuries

Woe is me...I have a running injury. This time the culprit seems to be anterior tendonitis/extensor tendonitis in my right foot. Try as I might to stay injury-free, it seems to happen to me at least once or twice a year. I should be more accepting of it but it really irritates me! I want to learn how to better cope with the frustration of not running during these instances and also how to minimize the reoccurrence of these pesky injuries.

So let's start with how to cope shall we? One obvious thing that can be done is cross-training. You can ride a bike, swim or run in the pool, use the eliptical trainer and do yoga or pilates to stay active and in shape during non-running periods. Cross-training may not replace your desire to run, but you'll just have to be patient or patiently impatient.

If you're having a difficult time mentally coping with your injury, you can talk about it with someone. This person can be a loved one, friend or even a therapist if you are feeling depressed. Try writing your feelings down in a journal or blog post. Sometimes just writing is a stress-reliever. Look through some of your old race memorabilia to remind yourself of your past accomplishments. Try to remember that your injury is just temporary and you will be back to running and accomplishing more great things soon. You may want to schedule a race a little farther down the road to stay motivated and focused on the future.

Now I would like to share with you some advice that I have received from professionals and fellow athletes  to help minimize the chance of getting injured. It may be impossible to stay injury-free 100% of the time but following these tips should increase your odds of staying healthy when you're on the run:

  • Make sure you are fitted for a running shoe that works well for you - Go to a local running store or sports health professional and have them evaluate your footwear needs before you buy. You don't want to run in a minimalist shoe if you heel-strike or are a heavier runner. 
  • Don't increase your mileage too much too soon - The general rule is to keep your mileage within no more than a 10% increase a week. For example if your longest run this week is supposed to be 10 miles long then your longest run next week should be 11 miles. 
  • Know when to back off - Not everyone can run everyday. Only you know how your body feels. Some people must run every other day or just a couple times a week. Listen to your body. If something is tight or achy take a day or two off and then reassess your situation.
  • Alternate your shoes if running frequently - Make sure you have at least two pairs of training shoes that you can rotate to allow for the shoes to adjust back to their normal state. Most shoes need to be retired somewhere around 300 miles usually.
  • Don't lace shoes up too tight - Apparently lacing too tightly can cause issues with the top of the foot so be cautious of how tightly you are lacing up.
  • Warm up and cool down - Take the time to stretch a little and start off at a slower, easier pace to get going. You should also run slower or walk to cool down so you can get your heart rate down and allow your body time to loosen up.
  • Alternate harder workouts with easy workouts - For example if your long run is always planned for Sunday then your Monday workout should be an easier recovery run or lower impact activity such as swimming or yoga.
  • Include core/strength work as part of your routine - Make sure you include at least two days of core strengthening in your schedule. It can be anything from yoga or pilates class to lifting at the gym and doing exercises like squats, leg lifts, etc or something like p90x core that focuses on a number of muscle groups.
  • Supplement with Vitamin D - Make sure you're eating enough foods with calcium and take a supplement of vitamin D. My physician recommended 10000 iu daily for me but you can check with physician for a specific dosage for you.
  • Hydrate to avoid cramping - Be sure to drink water or sports drinks before and after your run to help alleviate any cramping that can result due to dehydration. Running with cramps may lead to muscle tightness that causes injury.
As of today I have been off for a week. I am feeling better but not yet 100%. I hope to be ready to test my right foot out later this week or weekend. In the meantime I am stretching, icing, resting as much as I can along with taking ibuprofen. If anyone has additional suggestions I am all ears. Here's to happy, healthy running for me in the near future!