You know the feeling: you’re tired, out of sorts and running on empty. Was it the food at the work potluck? Perhaps it was the lack of green vegetables in the spread. Maybe it’s the drastic change in temperatures. Or, it could be from not drinking enough water or from not taking a multivitamin daily.
Your immune system, your body’s natural defense system, is down and you are getting sick or already have a full blown cold. That 3 mile run that you had planned now seems like an insurmountable task. Walking 3 miles may even be too much to take on.
Running on Empty
I don’t get sick very often, but I have felt many times a cold coming and have stopped dead in my tracks to try and ward it off. I begin examining every morsel entering my mouth, take a step back and examine my routine. Can I be getting more sleep? Or can I take some tasks of my plate to relieve stress?
It was no surprise then that when I researched the impact running has on the immune system – I saw Runner’s World was right on target with covering the same topic. The last thing any of us wants is to get sick. But what is even worse is getting sick while training for a big race, or on race day.
“But isn’t running supposed to make you healthy? While 30 to 45 minutes of moderate daily exercise does stimulate the immune system, the rigors of running longer distances temporarily weakens it. During the strain of a hard run, the body churns out the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses immune function in large amounts.” – Runner’s World
The article goes on to suggest several methods to reduce your chances of getting ill including: replacing a long run with a shorter high-intensity workout (which will compromise your immune system less), managing stress in your life, eating right and getting enough sleep. According to experts, the 72-hours following a race leaves your body most vulnerable to illness. Take note, athletes.
Running on Empty
I’ll definitely be taking the 72-hour tidbit to heart after my next race. In fact, right now might be a good time for me to start putting a post-race plan in place. Time to stock the shelves with chicken noodle soup and even maybe some Airborne for peace of mind.
What stay well tips do you have for athletes?
*This post was originally published in 2011 and has been updated and republished for accuracy and comprehensiveness.