When you’re sidelined with a running injury things are pretty cut and dry: you can’t run for a prescribed amount of time until your injury is healed. And while it’s difficult to miss out on running, especially if you’re in full training-mode for an event, it’s almost a badge of honor. You got injured because you were working your body hard.
In most cases, you can cross-train through injury. While you may not love these different exercises as much as running, at least you have the ability to exert yourself physically and you can still get the endorphin boost from working out. And you might find that when you do return to running, the cross training has actually helped improve your overall fitness and given your body renewed energy from switching things up.
Illnesses, I will argue, are almost more difficult. There’s a lot of grey area. Should you or shouldn’t you run? Is exercise going to make you feel better, or exacerbate your issues? While not directly related to your running, they certainly affect it, as it’s hard to do any type of exercise when you’re feeling bad.
I recently spent a few weeks dealing with shingles. Yes, I am under the age of 70, and No, I was not under any extreme amount of stress. Between the internal nerve pain and the extreme skin discomfort as the rash went through its stages, I wanted to crawl out of my skin. So the last thing I wanted to do was make my body any more uncomfortable. And while I am blessedly flat-chested (I am only being partially sarcastic here, I don’t mind not having boobs when it comes to running!), it probably wouldn’t be appropriate to run around braless. The rash was at chest level, covering my right side exactly where a sports bra goes.
Once I got through the discomfort of getting dressed, actually running wasn’t too bad. It didn’t make me feel any better, but it didn’t necessarily make me feel any worse. So I just powered through and stuck with my current running routine to not lose any fitness.
Most people might think it’s frivolous to worry about fitness when your body is trying to heal from illness, but most people aren’t runners. For most non-life-threatening illnesses you may encounter, you will likely want to get back to running as soon as possible. Just remember to ease back into your routine with extra caution of fatigue. Much like running during pregnancy, if your body is used to daily or near-daily exercise it’s okay to let it it do what it’s used to, provided there is no danger of relapse.
Even if the last thing you feel like doing is exercising, the fresh air and endorphins often help perk you up. And if they don’t, cut yourself a break and take a few days off. Ultimately, your body might need that extra energy to combat whatever invader you’re dealing with.
For me, injury is much easier to handle, I can generally find ways to work around not running and get many of the same benefits through other forms of exercise. But with an illness, pushing through can be much tougher because it’s harder to see the gains in health your body makes each day. Even if you can sometimes still push through and run it’s hard to know if that’s the right thing to do. Ultimately, and as we are constantly re-learning as runners, it is important to listen carefully to what your body is really telling you.
Are injuries or non-running related illnesses more frustrating for your running routine?