No Time for Downtime?

No Time for Downtime?

No time for downtime? Knowing when to rest and when to push through is a very individual and touchy decision. On one-hand, rest is important and if we don’t allow our bodies to rest we can become more susceptible to sickness and over-training injuries. On the other hand, if we skip too many workouts we can miss out on the opportunity to attain our goals. And sometimes when we’re looking for an excuse not to work out, do the sniffles really qualify??

Unfortunately, I don’t have a clear answer. In fact, I’m currently in that situation right now. I’m running the Boston Marathon next week and I’m more congested than the LA Freeway at rush hour! I’ve taken some days off and rested, while others I’ve pushed through. And based on my experiences, here’s what I think…

  1. Running with slight head congestion (no fever) is OK. I had a 20-miler last week that actually loosened my sinuses right up and let me have some breathing ability back for the rest of the morning. I went at a fairly slow pace for the first few miles and picked it up as I felt better in the later miles. For minor allergy symptoms or the sniffles, running has helped clear my sinuses up.
  2. Intensity needs to throttled back when you’re not 100%. Seems logical, but us fanatical runners don’t always apply logic when it comes to running. I tried a workout last week that involved a fast-paced medium-mileage run. I wasn’t able to take deep and full breaths like I’m used to, which led to cramps and slower splits. Had I set a slower pace, I would have had a much better workout both physically and mentally. Missing workout goals can have lasting affects on confidence and morale…not worth it. You can’t give it your ALL if you’re only 75-80% healthy…so throttle back.
  3. There’s no harm in taking 2-3 days off. One of my best workouts this year was after taking 3 days off with this cold / allergy. It still bothers me to leave all those blank lines in my workout log, but it hasn’t seemed to negatively impact my running times. In fact, I think the rest has improved my times. Taking a few days off as a preventative measure is far better than taking a few weeks off to recover from a full-blown illness.
  4. A few home-remedies actually work! I’ve noticed that steamy showers, warm soup, and a cup of tea have temporarily cleared my sinuses on quite a few occasions. And for those that are open-mined and can look past the fact that squirting water up your nose is gross…nasal irrigation works! It's important to ensure that you're using clean saline.  Try it, if you’re looking to get some breathing relief from allergy season to get ready for marathon season.
  5. There are no can’t miss workouts. I can hear my wife calling me a hypocrite as I type this, but it’s true: there is no one workout that will make or break you. Training for overall fitness or a race is a compilation of months and months of effort. And while missing a few workouts may set us back from our plan…when has any plan ever worked out without some modifications? Be flexible. If your body is telling you to take a day of rest…take a day of rest. I am usually forced to follow my own advice when my symptoms get worse (i.e. like now?!), but it’s far better to heed the early warning signals than to push yourself to that point. Be your own best judge. Yesterday’s mantra of “No Pain…No Gain” is illogical. Working out should be rewarding and to be rewarding it needs to have an element of discomfort, sweat, and fatigue. But only you can decide between productive discomfort and nonproductive strain. And it’s this good judgment that will keep you going on the right path for years to come. Best of luck! You can find this article and other motivational fitness information in the April 2008 article of The Bullhorn. You can sign up for this free monthly e-zine below.

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