What about running when you have a cold?

I’m asked the question from time to time about running when you have a cold.

Whether or not to run when you feel a cold coming on is something many people have a tough time deciding –  I struggle with as well.  I really enjoy all that I get from running, and I hate to take a day off from working out if I don’t absolutely have to (OK – I’ll also admit that I’m afraid that a day off will undo all of the exercise I have done in the past – but that is a topic for another post).  For purposes of this post, we’ll deal specifically with the case where you have a cold or feel a cold coming on and address illness in general in another post.

This really is a good question to consider, because the aim of exercise is keep you healthy or to https://flic.kr/p/7oMbJXmove you toward better health – so you don’t want to do anything that might either prolong a cold or make you more susceptible to coming down with something else.

To best answer the question, consider whether your cold is contained to your head (stuffy nose, etc.) or whether it has migrated to your neck or chest (sore throat, chest congestion).  A good general rule of thumb is that if it is above your neck, you’re fine to run.  The two exceptions to this are if you have a sinus infection, or if you can feel that your body needs you to rest.  Sometimes it is possible to beat a cold more quickly if you give your body rest; this is why it is important to stay in tune with the signals your body is giving you – it will “tell” you what it needs – you may have to relearn how to listen to the signals it gives you.

Can there be a benefit to running when you have a cold?  Yes – as long as you don’t push yourself too hard, you will give your immune system a boost, and you will also relieve some stuffiness while running (and for a short while afterward) as your body shuttles blood to your muscles and away from your nasal passages.  It can also help you clear your nasal passages of congestion and get some of the junk out of your system.  Just don’t want to push yourself too hard – remember that your body needs extra rest to fight off a cold, and is diverting extra energy to your immune system.  Also, make sure you drink plenty of fluids and stay well hydrated as you always should with a cold (but especially if you decide to run) .

Remember this general rule of thumb:  cold is above your neck – enjoy your run if you feel up to it, but neck or below – you shouldn’t go.  Of course if you feel like it may be flu, or have body aches, or feel like you are on the verge of getting something else, or have symptoms of a sinus infection or some other type of infection –  take the day off and if necessary see your doctor.  Better to take a short break and let your body recover than increase the duration or severity of your cold or leave yourself susceptible to coming down with something else.


Questions or comments – use the reply form below, I’d love to hear from you.

What might limit you from running every day?

In the recent posts we’ve looked at the questions of how often should you run, and should you run every day to meet your health and fitness goals.  Before you decide on your schedule and start hitting the trail or track or wherever it is you decide to run (watch for an upcoming post on where you should run), there are a couple of important factors you should consider regarding your physical condition.

1.     Do you have any current physical conditions or illness that would prevent you from running every day or even regularly?

This would obviously include anything like muscle, heart, lung, joint, tendon or other issues that present physical challenges to regularly running.   Be smart and listen to your body.  Even though running is a great way to consistently burn a lot of calories – it does you no good if you damage your body in the process.

If you have something that hurts (beyond just the soreness that comes from exercising and working muscles image courtesy of kozzi.comthat aren’t conditioned to working out), be smart and back off.  Some people find that running every other day works out just great, but every day tends to bring on joint pain.  Running every other day is great – use the in-between days for some type of weight and resistance exercise (a good option we’ll look at in more detail in an upcoming post).  In an upcoming post we’ll also look at running when you are sick or have a cold.  Of course, it should go without saying that you will want to check with your doctor before jumping into any rigorous physical activity – especially if you have some physical condition or have not been physically fit up to that point.  Which leads to the next factor:

2.     What kind of fitness or physical condition are you in?
If you have not been exercising regularly and/or are more than a few pounds overweight – it would be wise to check with your doctor before jumping into any type of rigorous physical activity. 

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock PhotosYou should also realize that you can’t (it is not wise) to try to go from 0-60 overnight; if you haven’t been exercising, don’t embark on a plan of running 5 miles every day; you’re not conditioned for that.  In addition, if you’re carrying extra weight you will be placing extra stress and pounding on your hips, knees, joints, and extra exertion on your heart and lungs.   As you begin to get more into shape and the pounds begin to drop off you can increase the length, speed, frequency and/or duration of your runs.

Be wise and don’t fall prey to the New Year’s Resolution syndrome:  so many people over commit early on to an unsustainable course of action just to quit a week or two later.  Take small steps that you can stick with and build on your successes.

Questions or comments – use the reply form below.

Can you run every day to meet fitness and health goals?

In the last post, I began looking at the question of how often should you run.

One of the biggest determining factors in how often you run (or do any exercise) has to be your fitness and health goals.   This is because your goals will help keep you on track, drive you toward a measurable result, and encourage you to push on – even when you don’t feel like doing your run.  Short term goals like preparing for an upcoming race can help push you to run more frequently or to do a specific type of running workout.  We’ve already covered some of the benefits that come specifically from running in previous posts. It’s also helpful to also remember that regular exercise itself has so many beneficial effects on your body and overall health.

image courtesy of kozzi.com

In order to reap these benefits, exercise has to be done regularly – and I recommend that it be daily.  Can this daily exercise be running?  Yes, it can be.  Should it be?  That is where personal choice comes in.  If running is something you love, or is something that will help you stay on track with regular daily exercise, then a definite yes.  Can you benefit from adding other types of exercise besides running to your fitness routine to optimize a healthy lifestyle?  This also gets a yes, and we’ll explore this idea further in an upcoming post.  Also in an upcoming post we’ll look at what might preclude you from running every day.

To underscore the benefits of making this regular (and daily), I’ll end this post with a reference to a Duke University Medical Center research study that revealed that regular exercise IS effective in lowering bad cholesterol levels.  This study showed a clear benefit of lowered harmful cholesterol levels in participants who regularly exercised.  It also found that some exercise is better than no exercise, but the biggest impact comes from increasing the amount of exercise – as in doing it daily. It’s worth noting that jogging and brisk walking were the types of exercise used in this study.

Questions or comments?  Use the reply form below – I’d love to hear from you.

So how often should you run?

I love to run and have loved it for a number of years.  For those that enjoy it as much as I do (some might use the word obsessed)  going on a run more than once in the same day is not out of the question.  I’ve been know to get “my” run in early in the day and then go for a “social” run with friends later in the day.  Obsession?  Maybe – but I really do enjoy running –  not just the physical benefits I get from running; i just enjoy getting out, feeling my body move and respond, the endorphins (the so-called runner’s high – will be covered in an upcoming post) and the invigoration from feeling my muscles in use and the beat of my heart and air exchange from deep breathing.    So am I recommending that you run multiple times in a day?  No – you can, but even that is based on the same principles that answer our question of how often you should run.treadmill

So here are a few things to consider to arrive at the answer of how often you should run:

-Your fitness goals
-Your physical condition
-Your current fitness level
-Your workout intensity (HIIT, pace runs, etc.)
-Your other exercise activities
-Your current level of stress
-Your current sleep quality (or lack thereof)
-Any current precluding physical conditions or illness

Over the next few posts we’ll take a look at each one of these and unravel the answer to this question.
If you have to know right now – the most important principle is to listen to your body – it gives you feedback all the time; sometimes we either listen poorly or ignore the messages it’s sending.

Questions or comments – use the reply form below – I’d love to hear from you!



Why I don’t always do HIIT

As described in some previous posts, HIIT is a great way to give an added kick to your workout, burn more calories, get a more intense workout in a shorter time – basically you’re getting more bang for the buck for the effort you put into your running.

So – why not do HIIT for every workout if it’s such a great thing?  I am asked this question from time to time.  More workout and more results in less time?   In this post I’ll tell you why I DON’T do HIIT for every workout or run that I do.  Here are four of the top reasons:17730394_s

  1. HIIT is intense!  It doesn’t just pack a bigger calorie burn into a shorter time, it more intensely works your muscles, joints, tendons, heart and lungs.  For this reason, unless you are an elite athlete you probably shouldn’t be doing this every day or for every workout – at least not at the most intense level every day.  If you do decide to make HIIT your regular workout, use sense regarding the duration of your workout and listen to the feedback your body gives you.  If your body is signaling to you that you need to back off on the length or intensity of your HIIT workout, or that you need to skip a day – DO IT!
  2. I enjoy the extra calorie burn and workout that comes form HIIT and packing a big workout into a small time, but I also enjoy the time I spend running.  While there are times when all I have time for is HIIT, I really do look forward to being able to spend the 25, 35, or 45 minutes running some of my favorite courses.  It’s nice to have that time unwinding, ,and thinking through the events of the day or challenges I might be working on, or to just let my mind relax while I hit the trail.
  3. I enjoy running in a race occasionally, and while HIIT will help you get better times in a shorter race like a 5k, I find that I also like to have my body very familiar with what it’s like to run continually for a longer distance – especially the distance of an upcoming race.  For me there’s a comfort in being totally familiar with distance and duration of a race – even better yet if I can do some of the training on the actual course of the race.
  4. I like running with friends too.  Spending 45 minutes with a someone on a Saturday morning running along a river or on a horse trail is not a bad way to spend some time!  I also enjoy the running the trails with someone a little better than I am so that I will push myself a little harder than I might if I were alone.

Use the reply form below to share questions, comments or your experience with running or HIIT.  I’d love to hear from you.


How to get more out of your running workouts with HIIT

So you’ve read the previous post on how to get the most of out your running in even a shorter amount of time and want to try it yourself.  You won’t just burn more calories with HIIT – you’ll also increase end up aiding your cardiovascular system and increasing your normal running pace.I recommend that you take it easy when adding this in to your workout/running routine; if you are new to running or just beginning to get into shape don’t overdue it!  While High Intensity Interval Training can give you the same workout (or even more of a workout!) in a shorter amount of time – it IS more intense.  You’ll find a lot of references to HIIT on the internet, but her is how I suggest that you do it.

I always recommend that you warm your body up first rather than jumping right into HIIT.  Depending upon the length of your run or workout, the length/duration of this warmup can vary.  What works best for me is to either tack HIIT onto the end of an easier or shorter run (e.g. when I’m helping someone get started and running orpacing along with them) or use it as my workout/run on days when I don’t have time to do one of my “favorite” runs.  For me, that warmup involves a pace run* for 1/2 to 1 mile just to get my body, legs, heart and lungs warmed up and ready for the “intense stuff”.    *More about pace runs in an upcoming post – a simple definition of a pace run is that it is the natural pace you fall into when running for a moderate distance or moderate amount of time.

After getting warmed up, you will move into the HIIT portion of your workout.  I recommend that you follow this general pattern for the next 1-2 miles (remember – take it easy and don’t overdo it when you first start HIIT** ):

  • 30 seconds running at 90-95% of your maximum ability followed by
  • 30-60 seconds of jogging  (easy pace – try to not just walk if possible)
    -At the start of your HIIT workout, keep these recovery portions shorter
    -As your HIIT workout progresses this recovery or slower portion will get longer since your body will need more time to be ready for the next High Intensity phase

7978552_sI recommend 5 to 10 cycles as describe above (depending on your fitness level) followed by a 2 minute jog to allow your heart, lungs and muscles to cool down.  This method will not only burn more calories than a pace run but will also benefit your  cardiovascular system and also will increase your normal running pace and increase your speed in shorter (~5K) races.

By the way – HIIT isn’t just for running – it can benefit your other workouts too.

Questions, comments or want to say something about your experience with HIIT?  Use the reply form below – I’d love to hear from you.


**  I recommend that you follow the guidelines set forth by the Mayo Clinic regarding talking to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine, especially if you haven’t exercised for some time, if you have health concerns, if you have an existing medical condition, or if you have any symptoms suggestive of heart, lung or other serious disease.   Please don’t take this lightly – our bodies have many complex inter-related systems and you only get one in this life – so make sure you take good care of it!


Burn more calories running in a shorter amount of time?

Previous posts have looked at some of the benefits of running and whether there is a time of day to get maximum benefit out of running, and whether or not morning is the very best time of day to run.

In this post I’ll briefly look at how to give your metabolism an extra boost and burn more calories with a shorter workout.

runnerThe key to burning more calories or gaining extra benefit from your exercise is intensity.
This applies to whether you are running, lifting weights, doing weight or resistance training – any kind of workout that you do.  The type of running workout I’m referring to is called HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training.
With HIIT you will burn more calories, your metabolism gets an extra (fat burning) boost, and you will boost other systems in your body as well (production of certain hormones).  The great news is that you can get these benefits without going to the same extremes mentioned in the previous post on boosted metabolism.  Some of you may find that doing a warmup and then HIIT is all you need to do to reach your fitness goals (if you plan to run races or with friends, I’d recommend training for those distances in addition to doing HIIT.

So how do you do HIIT?   It’s not just a matter of running “all out” or burning yourself out at max speed and then walking for a while. While there is a great degree of variation on what people mean by HIIT and how to actually do it I believe there is an optimal approach for the typical person seeking to live a healthy lifestyle.  In my next post I’ll give you my instructions on how to do HIIT the mrhlth way, some variations you can try depending on your schedule and goals, and benefits you can expect to gain from it.


How can you burn the most calories from running?

7658716_sFor many people, the main reason they got into running in the first place was not just for fitness’ sake or because the like to run.  If you ask them, you’ll often hear that losing weight or burning calories was what got them started at running (myself included).

As time goes by though – if you stick with it and run consistently – you reason for running shifts to other motivations and it becomes something you do for more than just weight loss.  However in the back of their mind, many runners still think about calorie burn for a number of reasons.

As a result, you’ll hear people talk about how running in the morning is best for calorie burn.  I am often asked that in question for – something like:  “Isn’t the morning when you will the biggest benefit from running; i.e. your metabolism will slowly ramp down after your run throughout the morning and you’ll burn calories for a longer period of time?”
If you read the previous posts on knowing the best time of day to run (part1 and part2), you know the answer to that is:  no.

So how can you burn the most calories from running?   And how do you get the longest post-run calorie burn?
The answer to the first question is this: be a regular and consistent runner and you will consistently burn calories.   Time of day really doesn’t matter that much – you should find and run during what you find to be the best time for you.

About that post-run calorie burn.   No matter when you run, you will burn extra calories afterwards as your metabolism ramps down – it’s just that this typically doesn’t last very long no matter what time of day you run for most people.  For the average person doing the average workout there less than half an hour boost which results in some extra calorie burn, but not all that much.   You will burn more calories and bring greater benefit to your metabolism by doing regular workouts – by running consistently and regularly.

There is one important exception to note however.   If your workouts are very intensive you will get an extended calorie burn that can last 10 hours or more.  This is vigorous, intense, extended exercise at the higher end of your ability.  In controlled studies, this is running or working out to the extent that drove many of the study participants to the point of nausea -(and this was for a 45 minute duration!) – not the kind of running that most people will do, will want to do, or should do on every run.  One North Carolina study documented a boosted metabolism for over 14 hours – but again, this came from a super-intense workout that you can’t repeat every day.

Is there a way to still get this benefit – even in a shorter workout?  Yes, and in upcoming posts I’ll cover both how to give your metabolism an extra boost and burn more calories with a shorter workout, and how often you should run.

If you have any questions or comments, use the reply form below – I’d love to hear from you.

Want to know the best time of day to run ? Part 2

If you want to find your best time of day for running, I recommend that you try different times of day  – and try them more than once.  This will give you an opportunity to feel how your body responds at different times of day.  By trying a certain time of day more than once you will make sure you didn’t rule out a time just because you tried it on an off day.

Mountain sunsetAfter hearing this, the question most people ask is a variation on:  “But isn’t there a time of day when I will get the most benefit out of the effort I put into running – when I will burn more fat, get maximum cardiovascular benefit, strengthen my muscles the most, etc.”.  To answer it simply – no.

Your maximum benefit comes from doing exercise consistently – and you are more likely to do that if you feel good.  Put another way – you are least likely to be consistent about running  if you try to do it at the time of day where it feels the worst, you “feel” the least benefit, and it fits the worst in your schedule.

Coming up we’ll look at the question of how to get maximum metabolic benefit from your running in order to address the question:
Isn’t the morning when you will the biggest benefit from running; i.e. your metabolism will slowly ramp down after your run throughout the morning and you’ll burn calories for a longer period of time?


Questions or comments?  Use the reply form below – I’d love to hear from you.

Want to know the best time of day to run?

So, do you want to know the best time of day to run?

If you are like most people, you want to get the maximum benefit from any exercise or fitness activity.  I know that as a runner, I never stop looking or ways to get the maximum benefit from the effort I put in to my runs.  For many people, this is the same motivation behind the question of when is the best time of day to run?

As mentioned in a previous post, I personally prefer later in the day.  I know many runners who prefermr hlth on the trail to be up at the crack of dawn (or even earlier!).  Some people find it invigorating to start their day this way – while others just want to get their run out of the way as early as possible.  I prefer to save it for later as a stress reliever and a way to leave all the “stuff of the day” out on the trail.

Whether you end up being a morning runner or not, most people find that after experimenting and varying the time of day they will find a time that naturally resonates with their own personal makeup.  There are night people that feel like they are “just getting started” late in the evening and morning people who wake up bouncy, and others that don’t want anyone around until they have had a chance to thoroughly wake up – and it is the same way with running.  In my next post – so how do you find your best time of day?