Long run + beer + missed sleep + teaching kindergarten kids = THE PERFECT STORM to defeat my otherwise strong immune system!
“My head is killing me and my body feels weak. Today my marathon training goal is to run 14-miles, but I’m coughing uncontrollably and just might throw up my breakfast. It’s official, I'm sick! This is all my fault. Why did I stay up all night last weekend for the Burning Boat Festival? Oh ya..because it was once in a lifetime E-P-I-C! I don’t regret it. But not my marathon is just 4 weeks away. Shit. Mentally I want to run so bad right now, but physically I can’t. This sucks. No one tells you about this part of marathon training. Why the hell did I want to run this again?”
I wrote the above rant just 7 days ago. The truth is that deciding to run a marathon is not merely a goal; it’s committing to a very specific lifestyle. It’s foregoing late nights out with friends so you can get up in the morning and have energy to run for several hours. If you choose to have a couple beers, stay up past your bed time, and run anyways (like I did)…prepare to pay the consequences!
Did you know a strenuous workout, AKA “a long run”, lowers your immune system for up to 3 days after? According to Amesh Adalja, M.D., an infectious disease specialist, the infamous stress hormone cortisol is released in large amounts during a vigorous run. This abundance of cortisol suppresses your immune system function leaving you vulnerable for attack. This fact is awful news for runners.
The most defeating feeling is getting sick just weeks before your big race. All runners need an immunity boosting action plan in case the worst happens. Remarkably just five days after my own immune system hit rock bottom, I came back strong and crushed a 14.5-mile run! I still can’t believe it. There are 7 ways I took massive action to build back my vitality and achieve my longest run yet.
#1 Take a Chill Pill
Yes, vitamins really do work. You will feel the energy and post-workout recovery boost. So as soon as I felt sick, I rushed to my local Costco and re-stocked up on B-Complex, Fish-Oil, and Probiotics. Some may turn their nose up to Costco supplements, but living in Taiwan I have limited options. Not only is Costco’s Kirkland Brand very accessible and affordable, but after doing some research on labdoor.com, I felt more confident about my purchase.
#2 Take a Sick Day, or Two.
Who said we have to be on our death bed in the hospital to take a day or two off? This was perhaps the hardest thing for me to suck up and do. I felt like I should work because I didn’t want to let anyone down and seem unreliable. But pushing through a long workday only drags sickness on longer, and in the end you are only letting yourself down. Everyone else will understand you need to rest. So I stayed home and took my boyfriends advice to “do nothing except take a nap”. I also snuck in some yummy meditation knowing it would aid to my immune system reboot.
#3 Jump on the Doctor Bandwagon
For a while I was that person who wanted nothing to do with Doctors or medicine. Even taking aspirin for a headache made me cringe. But getting pneumonia changed all of that. After 2 months of misery and failed self-cures, I finally saw a Doctor. I got the truth along with some antibiotics. One week later I was cured. I learned my lesson from that enlightening experience. Taking antibiotics once in a blue moon is sometimes the wiser choice than believing a healthy lifestyle can cure all.
#4 Do Salamba Sarvangasana for 5-minutes everyday.
This yoga pose has been deemed the “Mother of Yoga Postures" by respected yoga master Iyengar. He raves about how Salamba Sarvangasana, also known as shoulder stand, is the best yoga pose ever created! Besides boosting your immunity, there are countless benefits you will feel when practice this posture consistently. That's why it's one of my absolute favorites! Stay tuned for next week's blog where I will teach you how to do Salamba Sarvangasana in a video demonstration.
#5 Adopt a “Just Be It” Mentality
I first heard the idea of having a “Just Be It” mentality from the “Learn to Meditate Podcast” and was so inspired that I broke my meditation to write it all down! The iconic Nike tagline “Just Do It” started in the 90’s, encouraged people to be more driven and ambitious to achieve. Unfortunately it has done just that. The western world especially is now obsessed with doing more and achieving more. At times we even risk our health to reach our high expectations.
Are you guilty of this? I know I am! The problem is that doing is so achievement and materialistic driven that it leaves you feeling unfulfilled. I know for me I feel the difference on a spiritual level when I say out loud, “Just Do It”, versus “Just Be It”. The first phrase feels like something I have to check off a list, and upon completion I immediately search for the next to-do. Focusing instead on how to be-it causes me to be more present and enjoy my runs. Being a runner, rather than doing running, leaves me with more satisfaction. The short story is, don’t just do it, be it.
#6 Get a Massage
Not only does massage decrease inflammation in your body tissues making it "run-ready”, but it also increases your immunity by decreasing cortisol levels! If you can’t afford a massage, no worries. You can have the same benefits taking a hot bath and doing some self massage. Here is a phenomenal Podcast led by Shannon Algeo that will help you relieve stress and lengthen your neck with self-massage: FREE Podcast Here
#7 Run Anyways. Very slowly and not too far.
Although vigorous training lowers your immune system, 30-45 minute moderate intensity workouts actually give you an immunity boost! I ended up doing a few 30-minute easy runs over the 5 days I was sick which also helped me stay positive. Just remember to take it very easy because when you’re sick you hit the “moderate intensity” zone much faster. Consider monitoring your heart rate and keeping it under 120-BMP.
If you’re thinking, all that sounds great BUT...
"I can’t take time off work," or, “I don’t need to see a Doctor, it's not that serious.” or, “Sala-bala-what? My body doesn’t bend that way!” I challenge you to instead ask yourself the same question I asked myself: “WHY did I want to run this again?" I personally had a strong enough WHY to immediately put all these into action, and I hope you do too.
Greatness takes sacrifice. Most people make excuses instead of taking action. I am no doctor or expert, just a girl who is figuring it all out one run at a time. These 7 steps allowed me to go from feeling like absolute shit to conquering my longest run yet! May they work wonders for you too.
Thanks for reading. Please leave your thoughts and advice in the comments below...
Have you ever gotten sick just weeks before a big race?
Were you able to bounce back in time to still run?
Any other tips for me and other first-time marathon runners?
Top 10 Fish Oil Supplements - www.labdoor.com
Costco VS. The World: Fish Oil and the Search for The Ultimate Omega! By Steven - www.4hourlife.com
Benefits of Medical Massage for Building a Strong Immune System - holisticmedicalmassage.com
Immune To It All by Jayme Moye - runnersworld.com
SoulFeed - Chats with influential leaders + inspiring if coaching Mindful Neck Lengthening Stretches - FREE in the iTunes Store
Learn To Meditate - Meditation Podcast Class 48 Don't Just Do It Be it - FREE in the iTunes Store