A blog by runners. For runners.

Getting back to running after being sick

bouncing-back-to-running-after-sicknessIf you’ve been running for any length of time, it’s extremely possible that sickness has sidelined you unexpectedly. I, myself, am getting over a nasty flu-like virus that, with a deep chesty cough and low-grade fever, took me out of the running for 12 days. Twelve! (Not that I didn’t try lacing up while sick, but that’s another story entirely.)

Trust me — if it hasn’t happened to you yet, there are illnesses you just can’t — or shouldn’t — struggle through. Now that I’m feeling better, however, I’m finding getting back into my regular running routine is slow. I want to make up for lost time, but my body is still healing.

Here are a few things I’ve done to ease back into training:

  • I started out with walking. On the tail-end of the sickness, I was still quite weak, but wanted to get my body moving again — slowly. I headed out on a few 3 mile walks, increasing the pace over a few days until my breathing felt more normal and, at the end of the walk, I felt invigorated versus exhausted. Walking allowed me to gently test the waters for when returning to running might be possible.
  • I left expectations at home. When I finally decided to give running a go, I left my watch at home and paid little attention to the clock. Training by exertion is paying close attention to heart rate and breathing is the best way to train when getting over illness. It allows you to check in and tweak accordingly.
  • I went in a new direction. It was frustrating, but I deviated from my normal routes so I couldn’t as easily track distance. Instead, I ran until I felt I was done. Not surprisingly, that first run was short, but at least I was back at it. As a bonus, I discovered a new street with lots of shade for those hot summer days.
  • I started slow and ended strong. I don’t know about you, but I rarely do a good warmup or cooldown unless I’m doing speedwork. So, I made a point to walk a few minutes before hitting my stride and, when the run was over, I made sure to walk a bit before returning home.
  • I ran fewer miles and fewer days, too. Usually I run 5 days a week. In this first week back, I’m running three and favoring some gentle cross-training, like yoga, to keep my body moving, loose, and strong. The key here is to keep my body healing and not to run it down again, quite literally.

Above all, I was honest with myself. There were a few times even during the height of my sickness when I wanted to go for a run. Or, rather, when I had an overwhelming compulsionto get back out there again. It was ugly. There was bargaining. (“Maybe I can run just 2 miles today,” I told myself, “at least it would be something!”) But by listening to my body’s cues and my incessant hacking cough, I now know that time was really what I needed.

Yes. By now, I accepted that it will all take time. Resuming my regular workoutswill wait until next week or possibly the week after. Unfortunately, after such a long hiatus, picking up where I left off just isn’t possible or even advisable. Though there’s a hardcore runner inside me, I am just happy to be feeling better. The rest will come with — you guessed it — more time.

Written by  Ashley Marcin.