Do I sound like a broken record? 'Cuz I sure think I do and I'm certainly sick of it.
I've been sick this entire past week and, apart from last Sunday's long run, have missed all of my running this week. I've debated going out there even though I've felt miserable, but haven't actually done so.
I've brought this up before, this question of whether or not somebody should be running while they're sick, and no one has given me a definitive answer. I turned to my personal running library and, surprisingly, none of the books I own really talk about it at all.
Yesterday, I looked it up on the Internet (again), but actually decided to take some time to really read what information is out there. A lot of it is heaping piles of poo: articles written mostly from conjecture with no evidence or backing of the claims being made whatsoever.
There were, however, a few bright lights in the darkness. While the New York Times' article, Don’t Starve a Cold of Exercise, starts out anecdotally, it goes on to describe clinical studies that were performed with men and women of varying levels of fitness who were deliberately infected with a rhinovirus and then asked to either exercise, or not exercise, while they were feeling under the weather. The doctors involved in the study found that their subjects' "overall exercise performance wasn’t impaired, even though they were reporting feeling fatigued” and also found that, when the exercisers' provided an assessment of their symptoms they actually "felt O.K. and, in some cases, they actually felt better."
Other clinically-supported theories, like the one described in Runners World's article, Should You Run When You're Sick?, refer to the neck rule: "symptoms below the neck (chest cold, bronchial infection, body ache) require time off, while symptoms above the neck (runny nose, stuffiness, sneezing) don't pose a risk to runners continuing workouts."
With that in mind, and a self-assessment of my symptoms revealing a "neck up" affliction, I charged up my Garmin, prepared my Gu gels and hit the sack early last night, eager and determined to run 23 km this morning. Sadly, I woke up after only an hour of rest, and didn't get back to sleep until 2:00 am. And when the alarm went off this morning, I felt worse than I have in the past five days since I first became ill.
In her article for the Globe and Mail, Dr. Wijayasinghe explains that whether or not to exercise when you're sick is ultimately a personal choice, as "Everyone is different and every body reacts differently to colds. It is important to listen to your body if you choose to exercise when sick." When I woke up this morning with my headache, clogged up sinuses and after barely any sleep, I decided to skip my long run after all. It's disappointing, and it means I'll have to look at adjusting my training schedule to work around this latest bout of sickness. But hopefully I've made the right choice - and hopefully it means I'll be back out there again sooner rather than later.