I recently got the flu over the festive season. This came at a bad timing, just before I was about to run a marathon in Mid January. So i had to make the call, do i continue training or stop and wait for my body to heal? But being as stubborn as I am i decided to cpntinue training as I heard that excersize helps alot when one is sick.
That was my first mistake. Running or getting some cardio in when you are sick does help because when you exsercise, your white blood cells (Infection fighting), travel through your body faster and do their jobs better. However when you are a runner especially for long distant running its important to know when it is safe to run because sometimes you can do more harm that good. You dont want to elongate the flu because of exhaustion.
So how do you know when to run when you are down with the flu? the best way to go about it is through your flu symptoms.
The best advice that I would give is to take some time and take a break so that you dont slow down your recovery. However, I know that as runners we tend to be stubborn and insist on training. So generally when the symptoms are neck up such as a sore throat then you should be fine to run. But not your longer distances.
However when the sysmptoms are bellow the neck: so meaning that you might have a tight chest, experience coughing and most importantly have a fever, then this is usually a sign that you must take a rest and take it easy so that you can recover. If you are not sure i would advice seeking the help of a doctor just to make sure.
So what are the negative effects of flu on your body? Well the most relevant to us as runners is the muscle destruction and the sypmtoms comes in the form of muscle aches. There has been research that shows that various strains of the influenza virus can infect and destroy muscle cells. This viral effect is similar to what is experienced during long runs with muscle-cell destruction, possibly even kidney failure and this is brought about by the clogging effect that those destroyed cells have on the kidney.
The effects of this is that when you run, especially with a fever may developed severe and persistent symptoms similar to those of chronic fatigue syndrome, sometimes you can even makes the fever and flu-like symptoms worse.
So what to do now?
As runners although we dont like getting sick (heck no one does actually), here are a few tips that you can use to help either prevent and manage this whole flu conundrum.
The best is through preventions and this will definately save you time lost from the time off that you take when you get sick. There are so many medications and prescriptions out there that you can get confused by what to use. So you need to know what to take and what works for you, and trust me there are no right or wrong answers.
Many runners swear by mega doses of vitamin C, or multi-vitamin and mineral mixtures, although not substantiated by research, Vitamin C atleast based on my experience it does help boost my immune system and tends to make it harder for me to get the flu when the the bug is rife. There are also influeza vaccinations that you can take each during the beggining of each cycle/season. I started taking one because last year I travelled alot so because of the different environments that I was exposed to I easlily got sick and this really helped.
Other things include eating right. I know this sounds cliche, but it is true. I have a sweet tooth myself ,love junk food and eat alot. So this is a dangerous combination. So what I started doing is introducing more natural, organic foods. I also started cooking alot, because you then can control what you consume. Eating healthy helps complement a strong immune stystem making it more difficult to contract the virus. Remember, prevention is always better than cure.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post, do leave a comment bellow on what you think about this topic.