Half Marathon Training: Sickness and Recovery

This crazy cat is running a half marathon in March and I'm writing a little series on everything I'm learning along the way. My intro and training plan post is here. As I've said before I'm not an expert, I'm just a normal girl who started running and fell in love with it. I'm enjoying writing about my own experiences of running and hope I can help people with their running too!

Pre-running awesomeness right here.
In my last running post, I talked about my second 10K race. I talked about the fact that I struggled to finish and blamed factors such as the difficulty of the course, the infrequency of my running and the fact that I hadn't eaten enough before my race. One thing I didn't consider was being ill.
I felt a bit rubbish after my race, but I always feel a bit rubbish after a long run- especially a race, but I didn't think anything of it. My Mum was ill, but I didn't feel too bad.
I woke up Monday, blaming feeling tired and achey on my race, and went to work. 
I came home after three hours, coming down with flu.
I spent the rest of Monday in bed, took Tuesday off work, and struggled through the work day on Wednesday. I didn't start to feel normal again until the weekend.
I went over a week without running.
And worse, I didn't want to run.
At first, I missed it. But then as days went by I stopped caring. But I also felt both lethargic about the idea of running and nervous about my depleting fitness.
Getting back into running has been a struggle. I finally started running- slowly, carefully- on Tuesday and it has been horrible. But I have learned from it. And I'm slowly getting there. I managed three miles yesterday and three miles today. I'm a long way off six, seven , eight mile runs (and I'm going back to repeat a few weeks of my training plan), but I'm finally getting there.

Now with winter being the season of sickness and chills, I thought I'd write a little post on what I've learned about getting back into running after being ill. 

1. Wrap up warm
If you've had a cold or flu, you'll know how important it is to keep warm. I had been running in shorts and a short-sleeved top until this week, but I knew it was finally time to have my leggings and long-sleeved top on for winter. 
2. Hydrate
I always take water with me anyway when I run, but I made sure I drank lots of water before, during and after my runs this week. 
3. Wait until you're ready
I had a few days when I planned to run and then when it got around to it, I just wasn't feeling it. I thought I was just being lazy, but then my friend Steph, who is a heptathlete, said that she was always told if you're not feeling it, your body probably isn't feeling it either. I had a few days of this before I was finally excited to run again. And then I was ready to run.
4. Be gentle, be slow and ignore your time
When I say be slow, I mean ridiculously slow. Really slow. Really ease yourself back into running, especially if you've been ill or had a long break (or in my case, both). Walk part of the way if you need to, but just be gentle. Your body has been under a lot of stress battling illness, so don't push it too hard. Oh and ignore your time, seriously. Just don't even pay attention to it. Just concentrate on the fact that you're out there running, not how fast, or how slow, you're doing it.
5. Set a maximum distance
For me, my maximum distance for my first two runs was two miles. After that I had a go at three. Even two miles were incredibly tough on my first two runs. As with the previous point, just start slowly and on short distances to ease back into it. And if you can't finish the distance? Stop and walk. Don't push yourself! Your body is telling you something,
6. Don't ignore niggling symptoms
When I first started running again, on my first run, I felt myself develop a slight headache. Rather than ignoring it, I told myself that if it persisted after I finished my first mile I would walk the rest of the way. Thankfully it started to fade and I could keep going, but listen to your body. If anything hurts, listen.
7. Don't rush to get back on plan, and repeat weeks if you need to
This weekend was supposed to be my eight mile run. No way was that going to happen. I've decided to repeat weeks from the week of my 5 mile long run onwards. My original aim was to have my half marathon training completed by Christmas, then to do Insanity for two months with weekend runs, but I've since decided against this. I'm not asking for Insanity for Christmas anymore and I'm just concentrating on running for the next few months. That has definitely taken the pressure of me for my race. I'm giving myself plenty of time to get my fitness back up, I have contingency time for being ill or tired or busy again, and time to get my speed up. And it means I can go back and repeat weeks as I need to. 
8. Don't push yourself
I think I've said this about four times in this post so far, but it needs reiterating. I tend to sprint the last few metres of my run but I've been trying not to do it this week because I don't know if my body can handle it. The more you push yourself as you recover, the more likely you are to succumb to being ill again. Just be gentle with yourself. You'll have plenty of time to push yourself when you're better.
9. Get lots of rest
It goes without saying but sleep is mint. Get lots of that. This applies to anything after you're ill. You don't need me to tell you not to throw yourself into a busy week when you start feeling a smidgen better! 
10. Get back into your routine
Getting back into the habit of getting up at 5am to run has been a challenge. On Friday my alarm went off at 5am and I dozed off til 5.25am. I battled with myself over whether to get up or go back to sleep, but pushed myself to get out of bed and felt so much better after. I know once I get back into my routine of getting up at 5am I'll be fine, but it's not been easy this week! I'm a real creature of habit so routine works for me.

What are your tips for getting back into exercise after being ill or injured?

Charlotte x


  1. Some great tips here - I really need to get back into running again, so these will come in handy for me. I might print them off haha!

    Jess xo

  2. Good tips! Glad you are feeling better! Don't pressure yourself about not being where you were when you left off, you'll get there! (:


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