Running with a Cold? A Cautionary Tale

Do you know the conventional wisdom about running with a cold? It’s pretty simple.

If you have a fever, body aches, or symptoms below your neck then DON’T RUN.
If  you only have symptoms above the neck, like a stuffy nose you’re good to go.

This is what you will discover with a simple google search. Here is my screen grab from just such a search from this morning:

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What is not emphasized in much of the online advice is that running when you have a cold takes precious recovery resources away from your body and diverts them to run recovery. When you do this, you are not able to adequately recover from your cold. This should be common sense, but I failed to follow it. I will chalk it up to a lesson that will make me a better coach. Here’s my story.

Lot’s of people are suffering from head colds this time of year. It’s common…almost inevitable. I started to feel the symptoms the Friday before Christmas with a bit of a scratchy throat. My reaction was, “oh no! I don’t have time for this!” For the coming days I had a long run, family event, church, and church again for Christmas Eve. I didn’t have time to be sick and so I effectively willed it away for a few days.

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Race pace portion of my long run on December 22.

The long run on the 22nd was 15 miles with 8 at goal marathon race pace (9:08) for me. I went 4 easy, 8 at goal and 3 easy. It was a wonderful run and I hit my goal pace while feeling good.


After the run, I still felt good and our family Christmas party was fun. I felt fine and made it through worship on Christmas Eve thus ending a very busy time in my role as pastor. At 2am on Christmas Day I woke with post-nasal drip hurting my throat. Dang! I only was able to hold it off until I mentally relaxed.

I did take it a bit easy the next couple of days. Instead of joining my run club for a Christmas morning run, I went out with them and walked. I took a couple days off and ran again on Friday. The bad news, I still had chest congestion. The good news, running helped to open up my sinuses…but it was ugly. This run was only 6 miles and felt fine.

I usually run long on Saturday, but had a funeral, so I moved it to Sunday. This meant that my week would have 2 long runs – Sunday and the following Saturday. It also included a New Year’s Day trail run which was (except for blowing my nose so much) one of my best trail runs ever.

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I put in some race pace effort towards the end of the run, mostly because I was desperate to get to a restroom.

Interestingly every run this still felt ok. I had to blow my nose over and over again while I ran, but strangely this was ok, because I was “clearing out my sinuses.” My cold stubbornly persisted throughout the week. The run at the end of the week was 16 miles easy. My son ran with me on a cold (for SoCal) day. I was a bit worried about how I’d feel because I hadn’t shaken the cold, but it ended up being a very pleasurable run. I even felt as if I could keep going when we finished. I successfully ran 49.6 miles that week.

My son and I before our cold Saturday morning run


In retrospect, what this week of running while trying to shake a cold did was prolong the cold, while tiring my body. Enough so that Monday’s run was not bad, but not good either. Then Tuesday’s run made me so tired that I skipped strength training. For Wednesday track I was tired, so I skipped it. I ran on Thursday, which I don’t usually do, and felt ok for the first half, but then cratered for the 2nd half and had to skip strength training again.

Here’s the lesson for me: if anyone that I coach had asked me about running their regular schedule while sick, I would have advised against it. But I did it myself because “those runs felt ok…and all the symptoms were above my neck.” Yesterday, I contacted my own coach (who hasn’t been doing my schedule though) and told him that while I want to coach others I still need a coach! He told me to take three days rest.

And here we are…resting. Hopefully I haven’t set myself back too far. And I have learned a valuable coaching lesson…

Here is some better advice from Coach Jay Johnson: “Should you run with a cold?”

That Weight Struggle – Weekends

Pixabay - directory-466935Can you relate to this?

You wake up on Monday morning, ready to start a new week. You are determined to eat well, exercise well, and do whatever else is necessary to care for your body. Before doing all that you step on the scale.

Holy #@&%!!!

How did that happen? You think back to the previous week. You ate healthy. You slept relatively well. You exercised (and if you’re like me you exercised A LOT – 9 hours, 36 minutes, and 37 seconds to be exact for me last week). How in the world, then, can the scale say that you’ve only lost 1 pound…or stayed the same…or, horrors – gained weight?

So, my friend. How was your weekend? Did you let loose? Maybe eat an extra slice of pizza (or the whole thing?)? Did you have some beer or wine or a margarita or a combination of the above? Did you have snacks out on the counter that you noshed on all day, thus mindlessly consuming calories to replace all those you burned?

This all seems so frustrating…so depressing even. Especially if it becomes a regular Monday morning experience (or any other time you step on the scale). One option is to just step back from the scale. After all it is just giving you a number and that number shouldn’t define you. The challenge with this approach is that it might allow those of us who struggle with weight gain, or maintaining weight loss or just staying healthy, is that we ignore the warning and continue in our present unhelpful behavior.

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Maybe we should do this!

So what should we do? As one who struggles with this and is sometimes very afraid of gaining back my 80+ pounds lost, here are a few suggestions.

  1. Love yourself! Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t think that you are a failure. Just understand that you are human and that you make mistakes. Also understand that you are worthy of love – in fact God loves you unconditionally – no matter what you weigh and no matter how much you struggle. It’s very hard to take care of ourselves when we don’t feel worthy of such care.
  2. Remember each day is a gift. Don’t stress about yesterday, but rather look at today (whatever day it is) as a new day that you can live to the best of your ability. Yesterday’s mistakes don’t have to define what we do this day.
  3. Think about a different approach. Weekends are fun. Gathering with friends and family is fun. Having the occasional drink and treat is fun. We should be able to partake in life and in those goodies that surround us. But that doesn’t mean we need to mindlessly eat and drink. So, make a plan to pay attention. Eat that yummy food…but only if you actually slow down enough to taste and enjoy it.
  4. Don’t forget that exercise! Yes. Exercise. Do it daily. Be like me and run marathons! Or, if that sounds like too much then opt for something more manageable, like 30 minutes of something a day. We can all find 30 minutes!
  5. Sleep. Are you getting enough sleep? When we’re tired we tend to overeat. When we’re exercising and not sleeping, we’re not recovering well either. Get your sleep. Your body and mind will thank you.
  6. Hydrate. I find that I’m tempted to eat when I’m thirsty. Sometimes a strategy is to drink water, wait, and then decide whether to eat that treat that is before you.
  7. Find a mantra. I started this list with the instruction to love yourself. I end it with the encouragement to find something encouraging to say to yourself when you are facing temptation. I often forget this. I often fail to speak nicely to myself. This week my mantra is, “I’m worth the effort!”

These tips have helped me in the past and continue to help me now. I’ve shared that I’ve lost a great deal of weight and that I don’t want to re-gain it. I know the statistics that a majority of people do exactly that. In fact, I’ve done that at other times. What’s different now is that I’m an athlete…but still the struggle is real. Hopefully these tips can help you too.

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This is a beautiful photo of some very healthy food!

Recovery – Boston Marathon Training Week 9

Well, I only lost two weeks of training due to illness (This Sucks! Boston Marathon Training Weeks 6, 7, & 8). According to my coach my setback is really just one week of training. I’m grateful for his perspective because as I was sitting sick, I was also stressing about Boston. Would I recover in time to train?

Recovery. I’ve learned that recovery is just as important as running itself. There is also no one way to recover. Maybe recovery, in itself, is a discipline. Here are some of what I’ve learned about recovery.

  1. Recovery is absolutely necessary for improvement. You will not improve as a runner (or with any other skill) without including recovery in your training plan.
  2. Sleep is recovery. Sometimes we hear people brag that they can get by with little sleep. They’re deceiving themselves. The truth is that our bodies are working hard at repairing what needs repairing while we sleep. Think that hard workout made you faster? No, it just made you sore. The perfomance gains come from the body repairing itself while you sleep.
  3. Good nutritious food aids recovery. We need proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals…and we need to receive them from wholesome food. Don’t let your diet derail your training by eating lots of processed and unhealthy food.
  4. Sometimes recovery means movement. This one can be tricky. One remedy for tight sore muscles is a nice walk, some gentle stretching, and even an easy run (probably more like a jog). Why is it tricky? Because we could easily convince ourselves that constantly moving (instead of resting) is aiding our recovery. It’s not. But some movement is very helpful. Balance is key.
  5. Roll out those muscles and get a massage if you can. I can still remember when I first bought a foam roller. Rolling out my legs was so painful that my husband walked into the room to find out what was happening. Now I roll out my legs and back almost daily (that’s my aim). I actually have a nightly routine of bridges, clamshells, rolling, and stretching. Once in a while I skip it and lay in bed wondering why I’m having trouble going to sleep! Sometimes I get up and give my body the relaxation it needs.
  6. Warm baths. A warm bath with Epsom Salts is usually a Friday (day off work) treat for me. It’s so relaxing that I have to be careful not to doze off in the tub.
  7. Rest.  If you’re battling an illness or injury let your body rest. You will miss days but probably fewer than if you get worse because your body wasn’t able to recover.

That’s my recovery list. What can you add?

Here’s my training diary for the last week:

Workouts: 2/11/2018 – 2/17/2018
Sunday, February 11, 2018
6:51 AM Run – Marathon Pace
Planned: 10 mi
2 Miles Easy; 6 Miles @ Goal Marathon Pace; 2 Miles Easy
Completed: 5 mi ~ 51:12 (10:14 min/mi)
Workout Comments: The actual workout was changed to a short easy run because it was my first run after being sick. I started out with the intention to run 4 miles but I felt so good that I ran 5. This felt normal and my HR was always where it should have been. Yes!
Monday, February 12, 2018
 Strength Training
Performance Prep (modified) – Dicharry
Warmup: roll back; banded arm circles; banded pull-apart; overhead carry; bear walk; squat w/dowel; single-leg deadlift w/dowel
Workout: kettlebell all squat (20);
3 sets of the following: deadlift w/kettlebell (20); squat w/band for form (20); kettlebell swing (20); push-up (10); jump rope (double & single leg
4 sets of suitcase carry with kettlebell; calf raises with weighted backpack
Cool down: foot screws; twisted warrior
Actual workout time: 47 minutes
Completed: 1:17:22
Tuesday, February 13, 2018
6:57 AM  5 Miles Easy
Completed: 5 mi ~ 50:58 (10:11 min/mi)
Workout Comments:

Run felt nice but my HR was all over the place
Wednesday, February 14, 2018
5:07 AM Strength & Mobility

Core & Strength Level 3
3 Sets of the following sequence with ~ 30-60 seconds rest between each exercise.
15 squats; 20 sec. plank; 10 push ups; 20 Crunches; 10 lunges on each leg; 20 sec. plank; 10 calf drops on each leg; 20 Sit-Ups
Completed: 48:42
Thursday, February 15, 2018
7:38 AM    6 Miles Easy
Completed: 6.5 mi ~ 1:06:14 (10:11 min/mi)
Run – Hills & Strides

Strides X 4
To Be Completed right after you finish your run.
* Strides are medium-hard to hard efforts roughly 20 seconds each or 100 meters long (a straightaway in a track) where you focus on quick turnover. They are a harder effort but not all out sprints.
Take roughly 45 seconds rest between each stride (rest can be walking around or a very light jog.)
Friday, February 16, 2018
8:57 AM Strength & Mobility

Core & Strength Level 3
3 Sets of the following sequence with ~ 30-60 seconds rest between each exercise.
15 squats; 20 sec. plank; 10 push ups; 20 Crunches; 10 lunges on each leg; 20 sec. plank; 10 calf drops on each leg; 20 Sit-Ups
Completed: 53:04
Workout Comments:

I included jump rope between sets…one-legged jump rope is hard!
Saturday, February 17, 2018
7:48 AM
12 Mile Long Run
Planned: 12 mi
Nice and Easy.
Completed: 12.14 mi ~ 2:04:25 (10:14 min/mi)
Workout Comments: I’d asked my coach if I could puch up to 14 miles. He said no. Thankfully he did because the last couple miles were very hard. I also ran harder than I should have. So that my legs were very tired on Sunday. I need to listen to my own advice on recovery.
Planned Run: 33.00 mi // Completed Run: 28.65 mi ~ 4:52:51
Completed Strength Training: 2:59:08


Okay! Ray Miller Training Run #6

Another beautiful sunrise on PCH

After last week’s long run, I was pretty discouraged and worried about my 50k race that is approaching way to rapidly. I’ve given serious thought to dropping down to the 30k. But at the same time I hate giving up on a challenge. So, I’ve taken a wait and see how I’m feeling attitude.

I mentioned on my last update that I had my fuel system all wrong. But I was also still tired.

I went to my chiropractor twice last week as he’s treating me for the  lingering effects of a whiplash (got rear ended October 30th). I told him I was frustrated because it didn’t feel as if I was recovering from the marathon I ran October 22nd. He asked if such a slow recovery is normal for after a marathon. The answer was “no, it doesn’t usually take this long to recover.” He helped me to recognize that my body was affected by the accident. Mentally this reminder was helpful…so was the massage I got on Friday.

Before that massage I did a 12 mile run. For the first time in weeks it felt good. I hoped it would be a good sign for the next day’s trail run. Friday afternoon I scraped paint…this is its own form of endurance exercise….so Friday was certainly not restful.

Saturday, we started at 6:00am and ran 12 miles on the last section of the Ray Miller 50k. I was a bit nervous and so made sure to run easy pace. I’m happy to say all went well. The course was hard with steep climbs and steep descents and there were a few spots that cause me to fear encountering them on race day. But overall I felt well. No fatigue…no pain in my legs. The was and is good news.

Then today I ran an easy five The felt wonderful. Maybe I’m ready!

The lesson here is that we need to recover from more than running, so take care of yourself. I’ll do another 15 on the trail then the big day is December 2nd.


Gratitude 2/13

I twisted me knee a bit during an exercise class on Friday. At the time I didn’t think of injury, but was very careful to not twist it again. On Saturday I had my glorious 9 mile run up and down a hill and felt to very brief stabs of pain (almost like a cramp) during the last couple miles, but no other pain. Sunday I went for a walk and it began to hurt a bit during the walk. I almost skipped this morning’s strength, just to be careful but decided that the upper body and core work would be beneficial. The knee was fine during class and so I did my six miles after…and it was fine for that. I think (and hope) everything is ok, but the potential for an injury is sure stressful!

The entire episode reminds me, and so I am reminding you, of the importance of strength work for endurance sports. Strength work helps to prevent injury (just be careful not to do any weird twisting-haha), it helps to correct imbalances, and of course properly done it makes you stronger and more efficient in your movement.

With all that in mind, today I am personally thankful for: the strong body that God has given me; the group exercise classes that I have been taking since November (this work is more fun in a group); and for all the evidence that shows you can start strength and endurance training at almost any age…ie, you’re almost never too old to start!

Happy Monday

Gratitude 2/11

This week I ran 25.5 miles, and except for the week of the Carlsbad Marathon, this was the most mileage for 2017. Taper and recovery account for all the other low mileage weeks. This 25.5 marks the first week of training for Mountains 2 Beach on May 28, only 15 weeks away. Yikes!

Up up up and down down down is pretty fun!

Today’s long run of “only” 9 miles was and out and back that was also an up and down. I’m pleased that my climbing wasn’t too slow and that my heart rate pretty much stayed in the right training zone. I might even be able to quit saying sometime soon that “I suck at running up hills.”

Then the run down was glorious! It was at a perceived easy pace that was at or better than my goal marathon pace. As the next marathon is down the very same trail I’m thinking that I just need to get my legs used to that downhill for a much longer time and then I will have my BQ!

My heart rate only went above 150 near the top of the climb and then when I was having a fun fast finish.

The best part of this week and today’s run is that in every other training re-start after marathon recovery (I’ve run 5 now) that first long run has made me ask myself while running, “how did I ever make it through a marathon?” This didn’t happen today and hopefully with won’t happen next week either!

So, today I am personally thankful for: a good start to training for marathon 6; for the beautiful sound of rushing water as I ran along a stream that was actually filled with water (a rarity here in SoCal); and for the mental and spiritual health benefits of endurance sports (especially in these trying times).

Gratitude 2/1

February already! January was a difficult month for many. As I think about this I know that even in the midst of difficulty we can find joy…in a family member, in a friend, in creation, in the often silly things that happen in a day, in art, in song, in exercise, and in relaxing. Where do you find your joy? Let’s all find ways to take care of ourselves.

Today I am personally thankful for: the mental health benefits of running; that my post marathon recovery time is coming to an end so I can soon put in some long runs; and the laughter of children.