The stomach bug from hell, and how soon should you return to normal training?

I know that I am in good company when I say that I do not like to take unexpected rest days from running.  But what about my plan?!?  On Tuesday I woke up not feeling so hot, but I slugged through my speedwork anyway and went to work.  My stomach felt off, but I’ve been suspecting that I might have a food allergy for a while now, so I thought I might have just eaten more chocolate the night before than I could handle (dairy).  Sparing you the details, nothing that I ate stayed with me for long on Tuesday, but I didn’t have a fever.  It was supposed to be a weights day, so I got through about 1/4 of my workout on Tuesday evening before realizing that I was absolutely crazy for even attempting to lift.

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Tuesday night before I realized that I had the plague.  Failed attempt at completing weights.

Fast forward to Wednesday morning when I was a whole 7 lbs lighter than the day before and weak and shaky.  I probably would have tried to tough it out, but I am breastfeeding, so I was losing even more fluids than normal for a person being thrashed by the stomach bug from hell.  No medication was working, and I was starting to get a little scared.  My general practitioner told me to go to the ER for an IV, and my sweet husband packed me up in the car and drove me to the emergency room.  A few hours later, I had received 2 liters of saline, and I felt better, yet starving.  We got home and I still couldn’t eat much, but I thought I was improving.  Wednesday night proved to be round two of the worst stomach bug ever, and I woke up thankful that we had “invested” $400 in hydration the day before or this bug would have killed me (maybe I’m being dramatic, but holy cow!).

Thursday I hardly ate anything (applesauce becoming my favorite food) for fear that I would wake the beast, but Friday I was pretty much back to normal, albeit on a relatively bland diet.  All this to say, my running schedule was interrupted, although my body had certainly been challenged!

So what’s the point of this post?  I wasn’t sure when it would be best to resume my running schedule, and I’m sure that I’m not alone when I say that I am the worst at resting.  How soon can you return to running after having the stomach bug?  Runner’s Connect points out that there is not a lot of research on the topic, but they suggest to run easy and short for at least three days after getting better.  If you exercise too soon, you can further compromise the immune system and delay healing.

This article states that it takes longer to replenish fluid in tissues than it does to restock glycogen stores. Even if you have been able to resume drinking, it will still take some time for rehydration to fully occur, as a balance of NaCl (salt) must also be achieved. If you exercise when you aren’t feeling well, you will further compromise your immune system and have mediocre performance in training. Once you do resume running, it is important to hydrate well and take electrolytes after you finish working out.  Also, eat shortly after finishing a work out.

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Day 1: off, Day 2: Easy 4 miles, ~30 minutes

I had an advantage (if you want to call it that) with this stomach bug because I had an IV with saline distributing the correct ratio of fluids to my body.  Normally after a stomach bug, I still feel the hangover effect days after I’m well.  In this case, I felt mostly normal by day 4 of a 3 day bug, albeit a little hungry.  I reached out to my coach to ask how she wanted me to handle the days missed in my schedule, and she said to do about 30 minutes easy on my first day feeling better, then an hour easy the next day, followed by the next few days of my original scheduled workouts at 60% effort.

I’ve pretty well followed this guidance, and I’m feeling really good/healthy again!  It seems that being a mom has given me a little more maturity (gosh, that sounds old but good) in my training decisions.  I know that if I don’t let myself properly recover, I won’t be able to take care of Cadence properly either.  Pregnancy was also a huge lesson that it is ok to take a break from the normal running routine.  One week of missed training is not going to break a training cycle.  Trust the thousands of cumulative miles that you’ve put on your legs, and don’t add stressing out to the obstacles that you might be facing.  Tomorrow is another day and another mile.

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Because she is everything.

What do you do to help you recover from little set-backs?

Have you ever had a big set-back in training? For me: pregnancy and most recently a surgery   

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