Tuesday, December 30, 2008

should you exercise with a cold, redux

Last winter, as I was training for my first triathlon, I got a cold and wondered if it was smart to exercise while sick. At first, my web research said no, so I laid off. Then I got sick again and did more research and found evidence that said yes.

Specifically, it was Joe Friel's "neck check" to help decide to train while sick or not:
If you have above-the-neck symptoms, such as a runny nose or scratchy throat, start your workout, but reduce the intensity and duration. you may begin to feel better once you're warmend up, but if not, stop. If the symptoms are below the neck -- such as a sore throat, chest cold, chills, coughing up matter, achy muscles, or a fever -- don't even start. These are often the symptoms of a virus. Exercising will make it worse.
Now, Gina Kolata writes in the the NYTimes Personal Best section that studies have shown that exercise actually helps you down the road to recovery. Based on the results, this winter I'll keep pushing through when feeling ill (within reason).

Back to the proof: the decade-old studies asked two questions, 1) does a cold affect your ability to exercise, and 2) Does exercising when you have a cold affect your symptoms and recovery time?

Regarding one's ability to exercise:

At the start of the study, the investigators tested all of the subjects, assessing their lung functions and exercise capacity. Then a cold virus was dropped into the noses of 45 of the subjects, and all caught head colds. Two days later, when their cold symptoms were at their worst, the subjects exercised by running on treadmills at moderate and intense levels. The researchers reported that having a cold had no effect on either lung function or exercise capacity.

“I was surprised their lung function wasn’t impaired,” Dr. Kaminsky said. “I was surprised their overall exercise performance wasn’t impaired, even though they were reporting feeling fatigued.”

And in response to how exercise affects recovery time:

The investigators found no difference in symptoms between the group that exercised and the one that rested. And there was no difference in the time it took to recover from the colds. But when the exercisers assessed their symptoms, Dr. Kaminsky said, “people said they felt O.K. and, in some cases, they actually felt better.”

So, if you feel a cold coming on, do the neck check and keep going if it's all in your head. As Kolata points out at the end of her article, "too often taking time off because of a cold is the start of falling away from the program entirely."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

vascular surgeon says remove varicose veins

Last July, I went to my primary care physician to ask about the varicose veins that are popping out all over my left calf (seen clearly in this picture to the right). I was concerned they might be affecting my training and leading to the calf cramping earlier than it should (or worse: creating a clot that would break free and do some damage).

My insurance company wouldn't pay for a vascular surgeon back then, but since they've gotten worse, I finally got the referral to Dr. Singh yesterday to have a look-see.

As suspected, he said I have a text-book case of superficial varicose veins where the valves are just continuing to fail further and further down the vein network away from the original injury (behind my knee).

His concern is that during races and hard training, the combination of dehydration and the field of failed valves will be a breeding ground for blood clots, so the best course of action is to remove them.

The best news? It's an out-patient procedure that takes about an hour. Up until the surgery, I can train as normal and within a week of the procedure, I'll be able to be back training at normal intensity.

Details of the procedure to come in a future post (tales of phlebectomy and vein stripping and cauterization, oh my). Next stop: the ultrasound to identify the location of the "last good valve" is on January 9.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Personal goals for 2009

This is what I'll accomplish by the end of the 2009 season:

1. Finish my first Ironman 70.3 (Vineman 70.3)
2. Finish my first marathon in under four hours (Silicon Valley Marathon)
3. Improve my 10K PR to <47 minutes (is now at 51:53) (various)

Now to put together the training program to make it happen.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

prepping for 2009 race season

Although I haven't been blogging it, I've been busy getting ready for the 2009 race season over the last few weeks.

Since my last race, I've accomplished the following:
  • participated in the weekly Silicon Valley Triathlon Club track workouts at De Anza College (Tuesday nights at 6:30 if you'd like to try one) to work on my running speed
  • Joined the USA Triathlon club. I figure I'll make the money back on race entry savings... am already half way there because I...
  • Signed up for two "highlight" triathlons: 2009 Vineman 70.3 and 2009 Wildflower Olympic
  • Worked with my good friend Thom and Neil to come up with a comprehensive list of over 40 potential running races/triathlons/centuries/swims to do in 2009 (we won't do all, just the ones that make sense)
  • Finally got a referral to a vascular surgeon to get the varicose veins in my left calf examined. I found as the season went on, my left calf was the first to cramp and I'm hoping we can do something about it that won't sideline me too long. Appointment is Dec 19. Keep your fingers crossed for me
  • Got my Felt Z35 professionally fitted to me (wow!) AND gotten a serious bug to get a mountain bike so I can take advantage of all the non-paved roads around here for cross-training
Lots more to do. I'm taking it easy with just a couple workouts a week through Christmas and then I'll ratchet things back up again to hit my goals for 2009 (coming in my next post).

The best thing? I'm still having fun with all this, and I really like being in shape like I am.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Screaming deal on Garmin Forerunner 305 thru 12/15

My lovely wife got me a Garmin Forerunner 305 as an early Father's Day present this year, and it is, hands down, my favorite gadget, and it really helped me to measure my progress over the year as I put in the miles and picked up speed.

  • Customizable display
  • Alarms (distance/pace/HR)
  • Great tracking through multiple satellites
  • Quick-release system (sold separately) to use in running/biking bricks or races
  • Motionbased.com interface for online tracking and sharing of workouts (see my free motionbased account)
  • Form factor: it's a little bulky, but you get used to it
  • It's not waterproof so you can't wear it during the swim (doh!)
  • The mac interface isn't so grand, but this should affect you PC owners
Costco's got a deal on them for just $159.99 through December 15. (Back when I got mine, they were retailing for $250).

If you've been holding out on getting one, I highly recommend you get off the fence and go buy your Garmin Forerunner 305 now.

BTW, I have nothing to gain from this promotion other than to know others are enjoying the same cool technology I am.