No sooner did I run my first few miles of 2014 was I knocked down with the dreaded flu. Really? Me? I don’t get the flu shot (personal choice, no judgement if you do) but I can’t tell you the last time I got seriously sick. I get hit with the occasional cold every so often, but I kick those pretty quickly. But knocked down, bedridden, all I want is tea and my couch for days sick? Maybe three years ago?
It’s really no shocker that I ended up sick. I came back from the Rocket City Marathon on December 15th completely run down from the race and the traveling. I never took any time to catch my breath and get caught up on rest. Sure, I took a break from running and training in general, but basically just swapped logging miles for logging late nights with holiday preparations. Eating like crap throughout the holiday season really didn’t help matters much. I’m pretty healthy eater all year round, even over vacations and other holidays. Something happens to me during the Christmas season and all I can think about are the cookies, confections, and decadent holiday meals…and butter.
As the ball dropped and we said “Happy New Year” I was ready to turn it all around and get back on track, but the damage had been done. I was bedridden for four days, and knocked out for eight. I attempted to go for a run two days after I finally got off my couch, but ended up not making it very far before having a coughing fit and calling it a day. I was pretty much good to go again by this past weekend, but you can still hear a hint of congestion in my voice. 2014 is off to a bit of a rocky start, but better that this happened now rather than later.
The downtime got me thinking about how I wanted to ease back into my training and continue preparing for Boston. My philosophy about missed miles changed drastically over the years of being involved with the sport. I started running over seven years ago, and when I’d miss a scheduled training run I would try to “make it up”. In the weeks following the illness, injury (or just plain laziness -there was a lot of that in the early years), I would squeeze in the missed miles on a scheduled rest day. Over time, I learned the hard way just how stupid that is. It was probably one of the first bad habits that I developed and kicked to the curb. Running miles on scheduled recovery days is the best way to get yourself into trouble.
A training plan assumes that you are feeling 100%, 100% of the time. That’s just not the case in real life. In reality, people get sick or injured – or better yet: life just happens. When you’re knocked down, the miles you miss can seem overwhelming and can add to the stress of the situation. A little piece of advice: forget about them. What’s done is done, and now your priority has to shift from following a training plan to recovering from whatever ailment had you sidelined. It doesn’t matter if it’s the flu or a stress fracture, the bottom line is the same: take time to heal now to avoid being worse off later.
Focus on getting rested and recovered so you can resume training when your body is ready. When you are completely recovered, you can assess the damage and see what measures need to be taken to come back. A good rule of thumb to follow: if you miss less than 10 days, it’s possible that you can pick up where you left off and continue as scheduled if it feels good. You may have to scale back on the intensity or mileage, but for the most part you can proceed with caution. More than 10 days? Consider revising your goal or your training plan to avoid a relapse.
By no means am I an elite athlete or healthcare professional, but I have a lot of experience with taking time off for recovering and resuming activity. I’ve had a lot of successful (and not so successful) experiences and the one variable you can control is your attitude. Having a good attitude about whatever it is that sidelined you will ultimately make a huge difference when recovering and restarting.
So, here it goes again…2014, take 2!