Why do I get sick after a race?

Last year I wrote a blog post, Why do I get a cold after a race?

In that post I wrote about the ways that runners can pick up germs at a race. My post was based on my observations of what runners do at races and during races. There are many ways that runners exchange germs at races and I talked about the importance of keeping your hands clean.

The science behind a compromised immune system

My previous post was about how to avoid picking up germs and how to keep them out of your body. Here is some information on why you are more susceptible to these germs after a race.

A 2012 article from Outside Online discussed how an athlete’s immune system is weakened. In the article, Outside cites a study published in Exercise Immunology Review in late 2011 outlining what they currently know.

To paraphrase:

While researchers still have a lot to learn about the complexities of our immune system and how it works, they do believe there’s an “open window” of impaired immunity that may last between three hours and three days after a big event. During that time, your body’s resistance to pathogens is lowered, leaving you at higher risk for infection.

Livestrong.com posted an article in October of 2013, Sickness After Running a Marathon which helps explain why you are vulnerable for up to three days after an event.

Why Runners Get Sick

While moderate exercise has been shown to improve the body’s immunity to disease, periods of strenuous exercise lasting longer than 90 minutes can weaken the body’s immune system. After about 90 minutes, depending on a runner’s reserve of carbohydrate energy, the body uses up its natural energy supply of glucose, triggering the release of the stress molecule cortisol. Higher levels of cortisol, in turn, can weaken the immune system and make the body more susceptible to infection, “Marathon & Beyond” magazine explains, most commonly upper respiratory tract infections. – from www.livestong.com.

The article goes on to recommend getting plenty of rest after a marathon to allow the body’s stress levels to return to normal. In addition to a good night’s sleep, a nap may not be a bad idea either. They also recommend replenishing your body’s carbohydrate stores and getting plenty of vitamins and minerals through fresh fruit and vegetables.

Energy Supplements

Runners often supplement their natural stores of energy with energy products. Your body can absorb about 350 calories per hour, but can burn more than 600 calories per hour during a marathon or strenuous workout. Even if you manage to ingest 350 calories per hour you will eventually run an energy deficit during a marathon. You cannot avoid running down your natural reserves.

How to reduce your chances of getting sick?

  • Protect your self from common sources of germs at a race
  • Refuel properly after a race – see Additional resources below.
  • Get plenty of rest before and after a race.

Additional Resources

Here is a post from Greatest.com that discusses the virtues of chocolate milk as a post race or exercise beverage. The low-cost is one to keep in mind.

Here is a good review of energy products written by All Season Cyclist. lots of good information here on products you are probably using all ready.

At Get Going, Get Running, Bernie writes about how he uses nutritional supplements while training for a race and during a race.

Run well my friends!


Fool in the Rain

Last night I went out for a run with my running club, in the rain. Probably not the smartest thing to do since I’m still fighting a cold.

Just a Fool in the Rain

I ran 3.1 miles in the treadmill yesterday because I was not sure that I was going to go and run in the rain. My need to run over ruled common sense and I was out the door after supper. The one good thing about rain is that you know the air temperature is above freezing. The bad thing about rain a few days after snow is that there are puddles and slush everywhere.

It was impossible to avoid getting my feet wet. By the time I finished my 4 mile run I was soaked all the way through, head to toe. My ham string hurt and I was a little concerned that the run did more for my cold than for my fitness. I went home, did some stretching and took some NyQuil.

I woke up this morning and my lungs were no more congested than they were Tuesday morning. As I walked around I realized that my ham string did not feel any worse either. It looks like I managed to get in two runs yesterday with a total mileage of 7.1. Not great but not bad.

A few of us are running The Half at The Hamptons on Sunday. The weather forecast: A high of 38º F and up to a foot of snow! The race is on the coast of New Hampshire so it may be a bit warmer than the 38º F forecast for Boston, which means rain or freezing rain. Or it could mean even more snow that what they forecast for Boston. It’s hard to tell.

I’ll be wearing all of the clothes I mentioned in my last post and applying all of the lessons I have learned over the years. I’m looking forward to the challenge of running in these conditions.

Thanks for stopping by for a quick read. Have a great run today.


Winter Weather Running

Winter Weather Running

Winter weather running can be a challenge. Most of us do not give up when the weather turns cold. Some move inside to the treadmill, but most take on the challenge of winter weather running like any other running challenge.

When conditions are mild going out for a run doesn’t require much forethought. You can put on your favorite clothes, lace up your shoes and off you go. In New England, July and August tend to be the hottest months with the highest humidity and poorest air quality. In these conditions hydration and sun screen are important. Sometimes you need to run early or late in the day to avoid the worse conditions.

In the winter we have the other extreme to deal with. In New England it is January and February when the mercury plunges and the wind picks up. Normal running clothes are not even comfortable in the house, let alone out in the elements.

My hard learned lesson

I had my first lesson on cold weather running on October 18th, 2009 when I ran The Bay State Marathon in Lowell, MA.

The average temperature on race day is 50°, which is great for running. Unfortunately October 18th 2009 was a below average day temperature wise. When the race started it may have been 40°, but conditions deteriorated throughout the race.

Eventually it started to drizzle and temps dipped into the low thirties. On the way home as the temperature continued to fall, the drizzle turned to snow! The temperature had hovered just above freezing during the race.

I had never run a cold weather race before and had not planned for these conditions. I ran in nylon running shorts, Boston Marathon running hat, an Under Armour long sleeve shirt with a singlet over that.

I bought the Under Armor shirt to run The Boston Marathon earlier that year when it was in the 50’s. I may have had cotton running gloves on.

If you’ve ever run a marathon you know that the last 6 miles are the toughest. The last six miles of this race were among the toughest six I’ve ever run. Not only was my body depleted and running on GU packs but I was fighting 30 something temperatures, a light head wind and drizzle.

I wasn’t cold, I was frozen. Late in the race my legs felt like there was an inner and outer layer of muscle. The inner layer was burning through calories to get us to the end of the race. The outer two inches of muscle were numb. When I touched my leg it felt like the outer layer moved against the inner layer. It was like a coat moving against a sweater underneath.

That race was a wake-up call for me. Soon after that race I bought compression shorts and a full wind proof running suit. Over the years I’ve added tights, gloves and hats. I’ve also learned how to layer.

Still learning after all these years

At the Derry 16 Miler in January, I knew it was going to be cold so I used all of my hard learned knowledge and bundled up. I wore compression shorts, running tights and wind proof pants. On top I wore an Under Armour long sleeve shirt, Hartford Marathon shirt, my running vest and the wind proof running jacket.

On my head I wore the new running hat my daughter gave me for Christmas.

For my hands I used a trick I learned at the Ready Set 1st Run 10K on January 1st. I wore my Under Armour gloves as a first layer and then put the gloves the race gave us on top. The race gloves had some stretch to them so they fit tightly over the Under Armour gloves. In some race photos my pinkies are out straight and my other fingers are bent close to keep warm. Between the cold and the thickness of the gloves I just couldn’t bend them without conscious effort.

Another trick I learned was to stick a GU between the gloves. They are easy to get to and my body heat keeps them liquid in below freezing temps. It’s amazing how quickly a GU turns into, well goo, in freezing temps.

winter weather running

Winter Weather Running Advice

To run in really cold conditions you should invest in a few key pieces of clothing.

All skin needs to be covered up in the winter. You can either wear tights under running shorts or buy a good quality running suite, preferably wind proof. If you don’t get a complete running suite buy a good running jacket. A cold-weather running jacket can easily run over $200. You should be able to buy a complete running suite for about $100.00. As spring approaches keep an eye out for sales.

Tights can start at $50 and compression shorts start around $20.00. A good quality winter running hat and gloves are also vital. An everyday wool knit cap generally will not work. Wool will keep you warm when it is wet but a wool cap cannot block the wind and is only good when conditions are mildly cold. You can buy a good running hat for about $15 on up, with many available in the $20-25 range. Some come with a built-in head band to keep your ears warm. Mine is like that and it is great. Gloves can be more expensive and range in price from about $20 to over $60. You should be able to find a wide variety of gloves in the $25 range.

You would be surprised at what you can find at Marshall’s or Kohl’s at really great prices. You never know what you will find at Marshall’s or Ocean State Job Lots, so you should drop be occasionally and see what they have.

Layering is Key

Layering is important for all cold weather activities. When the temperature is no more than 30°, two upper-body layers and one lower-body layer are recommended. When you get below 0°, three upper-body layers and two lower body layers are recommended.

You need to take the wind chill factor into account when deciding what to wear. When it is below freezing I often go beyond the number of recommended layers.

It’s not unusual for me to wear an Under Armour shirt, running shirt, running vest and a running jacket. For the lower body I often wear compression shorts, running tights and running pants. I’ve worn two hats before, and as I mentioned above I’ve begun to wear two pairs of gloves. I was wearing all of this at the Derry 16-miler and I could still move winter running, winter weather clothing, layeringand was still cold at times.

Wearing a top with a zipper is very important in my book. If you are cool at the start your race will go well is the general rule of thumb. In extreme temps you may need to over dress to stay warm before the start.

All of this extra clothes can cause over heating later in the race. The ability to un-zip and release some heat is key to staying comfortable and not over heating. In the winter over heating usually leads to de-hydration and not heat stroke.

Dehydration can cause cramping and a loss of energy. Managing your body temperature is a controllable and I advise actively managing this variable.

Oh My budget!

If you have none of these items and are on a budget I would advise you to start with the running suite. You can layer shirts and running shorts underneath them. This will cover all of your skin and these suits will really extend your running season.

You may be able to find a name brand suite on sale at a department store. If you are on a budget you can try wearing a wool cap and see how it goes. If you have fleece gloves you can try those out as well. Avoid leather gloves as your hands will sweat like crazy, even in the cold.

As conditions get colder you will need more of these high-tech clothing items to keep running. Your summer running clothes and every day hats and gloves won’t cut it as we get into the depths of winter.

As I mentioned above, look for sales as winter wears on. Retailers often try to move items well before the season is over and you can get some great deals. I always have running items on my Christmas list and that is how I have gotten a lot of my winter running gear.

Where to buy

Before you buy on-line, check your local running store first. They can give you a lot of good advice and they will have end of season sales also. On-line can be convenient and save you some money but you can’t try anything on, returns are a pain and you want to support your local running store.

Here are some links where you can find good running clothes.

Marathon Sports

Roadrunner Sports

10 Cool Tips for Those Frigid Days

Plan ahead and be safe.

Run safely me friends!


Chillin on The Charles

Yesterday I went out for my 3rd run of the week to meet my New Year’s Commitment to do three runs each week. Since I was at work I jogged over to the Esplanade for a quick 5K.

All of the weather forecasts have been saying how nice it was going to be this week in the Boston area. “Nice” is a relative term and in January nice means freezing cold! It may have been 40 degrees out, but there was a nice gust coming off of the Charles River. Going across The Longfellow Bridge my running clothes were no match for Jack Frost and Old Man River.

I was Chillin on the Charles

As I ran across the bridge I looked out at the river. It’s just fantastic to look and see the wild life and the flow of the river. This time of year there are no boats at all on the river. As I was enjoying the view I began to notice that the river was icing over! Now there is a sure sign that Winter is here.

I managed to run about 3.2 miles in 28:20. Not a record or anything but it counts as run #3 for the week. I can feel good about keeping my commitment into the first full week of the New Year. Today I will spend about 45 minutes doing stretching and strengthening exercises in the gym.

For the New Year

I’ve decided not to do a Friday Post every week. Sometimes I don’t have anything to say. When I’m struggling to develop a topic I spend less time working on the writing. I’d like to become a better writer and for me that means spending more time on the writing.

I plan on doing some updates and revisions to the blog also. I’ve been working on a blog roll page where I can have more control over what is on the blog roll. I follow over 250 other blogs. Some of them have nothing to do with running or fitness, some have a little bit to do with fitness but I like their other content.

Some are political or very opinionated and I don’t want to bring that into my blog. Just because I find it interesting or amusing doesn’t mean it belongs on a blog that is essentially about running, fitness and heath.

So with that I’ll close out this Friday Post and spare you my rant on driving and traffic this morning. There were some real jerks on the road today. Nuff said.

Thanks for stopping by and have a great long run this weekend.


© 2013 anagelin

Active.com Intermediate 5K Program

Week 2 Active.com Intermediate 5K program

My total miles were 16.1 this week, which is not great. I planned to run 7 miles yesterday but I left all of my cold weather gear in the dryer at home. I tried to run in a singlet and a nylon vest, running shorts, running hat and cotton gloves. It was about 40 degrees out before accounting for wind chill.

As I ran across the Longfellow Bridge and the wind off of The Charles blew under my shirt, I quickly decided I would try for 5K instead of the 7 miles. That would still be okay.

As I ran along The Esplanade it became clear that I was woefully under dressed for the conditions and started looking for the 1.25 mile marker on my watch. I decided a 2.5 mile out and back was all I could manage. I have the Mill Cities Relay on Sunday and did not want to get sick.

I definitely need to buy more winter running clothes soon. A few years ago I gathered enough clothing for one really cold run. If those items do not make it through the laundry cycle I do not have enough clothes for my next cold weather run.

active advantage, active.com

  • Do you use a training program for your 5K races?
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Have a great weekend and run well my friends!

©2012 anagelin