Cold, flu season a reason to go running

Posted: Friday, January 08, 2010

My head hurts. My body aches. My stomach is queasy. So I am going running.

Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

I have the perfect amount of clothing that makes me comfortable. My shoes are just the right style for the icy rain, the hard packed trail, or the snow-dusted upper bowls. I have reflected strips, stripes and glowing bands so I will not be struck, overlooked, or harassed. I have GPS, cell phone, good karma and psychic hotline on my speed dial. My iPod is filled with songs that remind me I once did not need to stretch, had endless energy and would never grow old.

I eat almost correctly and hydrate accordingly. I take extra vitamin C, wash my hands frequently and clean off equipment used by others before me.

So why I shouldn't be out on a run? When should I not dawn the sleek body-hugging stretchings that accentuate my gait?

It is the cold and flu season, so what is illness and what is just being tired?

Many elite running coaches world-wide support that if you do not have a fever and your energy levels are OK, than you can get out on the trails. Even congestion and a sore throat, in their early stages, are okay for a run as exercise can combat the onset of some illnesses. On a technically advanced level, if monitoring your heart rate each morning finds it elevated, a run may not be the best idea.

But why a fever? Fevers mean your body is already running its own marathon, it doesn't need any additional physical exertions. Muscles aching, labored breathing and diarrhea are sure signs an infection is more serious. Bottom line: If in doubt call your doctor.

But, if I'm a bit punky a nice run always refreshes me. Getting outside into the fresh air can revitalize the senses and stimulate blood circulation, which also helps combat cold and flu bugs.

But this is a tricky situation. How sick is too sick to train? Many athletes follow this method: If symptoms are in the neck or above, it should be okay to exercise but at a reduced level (advance the intensity or duration as tolerated). If problems are below the neck, rest until the problem resolves.

Light physical exercise, such as walking, can help protect the sickness from setting in. But the stress of heavy training can make you more vulnerable. Training too hard and too often leaves you more vulnerable.

So I feel funky, off color and my head hurts. Another hard workout might lead me to a longer illness. I feel some tight muscle soreness and lately I haven't had a challenging run. Me, me, me ... I know.

I want soup and I'll add some garlic (it has an antibiotic effect and can help combat secondary bacterial infections), maybe some ginger too (can help nausea, fever, pain) and some saltine crackers (just because, mentally, it takes me back to being a kid). I am going to put some type of ointment on my chest, put a steaming pot of water in front of my face, cover my head with a towel and inhale (keep nasal passages open and moist). I'm munching fruits an veggies (antioxidant power), might even toss some in the soup.

I will just rest and take a day off. Because I guess this really isn't all about me. I may pass you on the trail, or in the grocery store, or at work. And if you are out and about with a bug like I have, one of us just might pass it on.

• Klas Stolpe can be reached at

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