Sunday, September 23, 2012

Running After Mono Part II

My apologies for the rather generic, un-creative blog title. However, my previous "running after mono" blog brought a mono-inflicted runner here, and I made a new friend! She just started blogging and has had the misfortune of getting mono. When I was Googling "running with mono" all I found were horror stories. I figured I would post some encouraging stuff for people searching for the same answers I was. Of course everyone is different and the illness affects people in different ways. But here's a snippet from me.

It's been two weeks since my last update and three weeks since I took my first "jog". September 1 marked my official return to running. It did not go well, but things have improved since. One thing to keep in mind when returning to running post-mono is that it's not as if you simply took a break from running. The immune system is compromised, fatigue lingers, the entire body has been beat up and there is always the worry of getting Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or never being quite the same. These last two are the horror stories I've read when searching Google for post-mono running. You have to be extremely careful, taking it day by day and  seeing what you can handle. The tough part is, even if you are responding well to increased physical activity, the illness can suddenly rear its ugly head without warning.

My approach here has been to rely heavily on my heart rate to indicate whether I am pushing too much.  Based on my recent VO2 max test, I know where my heart rate should be for the run to be "easy". 150-162 beats per minute. I've been extremely disciplined in this area, even though it feels like I am barely getting a workout. However, if I were to just run by feel I know my legs would take me faster than I should be going, and I would risk tiring too early and bonking at the end. Zone 2 training is also the best for building endurance, and that's where marathon training starts anyway. I don't plan to add any speed until early October and even then, it will be "lite" speedwork-- short tempo runs based on keeping my heart rate in zone 4.

September has been all about regaining my health so that I can return to proper training. I don't consider the running I am doing now to be actual training like it was before. Rather, this is what I need to do in order to recover properly, so that I will ultimately be able to train at full capacity sooner rather than later. My sports psychologist reminded me that I should be making comparisons only to my recent past, and not to my pre-mono self. Otherwise, every run would feel like a failure.

When I first started running again, I used the jog-walk approach. I found that I wasn't able to keep my heart rate in zone 2 for more than two miles, so I needed to take periodic breaks. Now, I am still jog-walking, but the jog portions are longer. I think I could keep my heart rate in zone 2 without the breaks now, but it's nice to let it come down a little every so often, so I'm not constantly having to back off the pace to maintain the desired heart rate. My paces have been gradually getting faster, but the lack of speed work means that I probably won't be anywhere close to my prior pace for a long time, and I am okay with that.

Here is a recap of my week. I'm including the paces so that I'll be able to come back a month from now and see some progress. A month ago, I was struggling just to walk at a normal pace, so I've made outstanding progress in the past month.

Monday: Rest. I had planned on running, but I decided not to because I expended a fair amount of energy cheering for Greg and my teammates at the Philly half marathon the day before.

Tuesday: 5.1 miles on the treadmill due to stormy weather. 10 minutes jogging, 2 minutes walking. Treadmill was set to 5.7 (10:30 pace)

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: 6 miles. 10 minute jog, 1 minute walk. Jogging portions averaged a pace of 10:30.

Friday: 5.9 miles. 12 minute jog, 1 minute walk. Jogging portions averaged a pace of 10:43.

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: 7 miles. 12 minute jog, 1 minute walk. Jogging portions averaged a pace of 10:11.

Today's run showed some nice progress because the average pace of the full 7 miles was 10:30, and that includes the walking!  Also, it was a post-mono distance PR.

4 days of running, 24 miles covered (includes the walking).

In addition to this, I've been consistently doing strength training. I'm heavily focused on my hips and glutes because I know that's an area of weakness for me. But I'm also doing squats, lunges, planks, various forms of crunches, push-ups, and light weight lifting for the arms and shoulders.

I hope that I continue to feel good during my runs and throughout the day. My greatest fear is a relapse or setback. I think I'm being really cautious here, but it's hard to tell for sure. My body is responding well, so I take that as a positive sign. I'm also very focused on eating healthy, getting plenty of sleep and loading up on vitamins. Health, you will be mine!


  1. Wonderful news, Elizabeth! So glad you're on the comeback and taking it slowly. I wonder if you need to attach quite so much weight to your HR monitor right now though, since you're probably feeling your fatigue quite accurately. (speaking as one who's had my periods of being very HR-involved) Not a criticism, just wanting you to be able to relax into your comeback without any peripheral anxiety.

    But I'm so glad to see you doing this positively and helping others as well. It'll be a relief for many to hear your story as counterpoint to all those bad ones.

  2. Thanks, Flo! Having the heart rate monitor actually reduces the anxiety because it assures me I am not over-doing it (which is my biggest worry). I really don't care what the pace is as long as I know I am not over-exerting. I don't really trust my body because the pace always feels great at the beginning, and you often don't know if you've gone out too fast until it's too late. But, I do understand where you are coming from, and I know your heart-rate monitor journey! I will be less reliant on it once I feel healthier.

  3. Once again, I love your attitude and approach. It will definitely benefit you in the long run. And that's a pretty good pace for walking included! :)

  4. Cheers for new friends and feeling great!! :)

  5. I'm glad you're continuing to feel better. It seems like you are definitely taking the right approach!

  6. Very happy to hear you are feeling better! Coming back is SO hard but I bet you will surprise yourself at how quickly it does come back. I like the way you allow yourself walking breaks, I did that too and believe it makes a huge difference is keeping the legs moving but not over doing it.

  7. You're so diligent and organized about your comeback. It's great to see!

  8. Thank you for your blogs! I have been reading them the last few weeks. I just started running on Friday after 3 weeks off due to mono. You are right....there isn't a lot of positive "running with mono" info when doing a google search. I was in the middle of training for San Diego Rock-n-Roll marathon but obviously that's out. So far, I've done 2 miles, 3 miles and then 2 miles again. I think I'm going to try the run-walk you did so that I can increase my distance. Thanks!

    1. Sorry you had mono! Glad to hear my blogs have helped. You will thank yourself later on for not trying to come back to fast. Take your time, don't push it, and soon you will be back to normal!

  9. My 17 year old daughter has mono now :( She is a track and XC athlete, and had taken 2 weeks off after cross season. She was just starting to get back into training for track when mono reared its ugly head! So now she has been off training for about 2 1/2 weeks so far. She still has the extreme sore throat but doesn't feel nearly as tired as she did the first week. We have been taking short walks together outside and so far those go well. She hopes to get back on the tread mill in about 10 days - 2 weeks. Track season starts in March, but the important races don't start until May. She is a middle distance runner - primarily does 400, 800, and 1600. Any ideas on how she should get back into training? I was happy to stumble on your blog. My daughter is extremely frustrated now. Mono sux

    1. Hello Tricia,
      Mono certainly does suck. I think that she should really wait until she feels 100% to start training again. I made the mistake of trying to get back into it before I was ready and then I'd just feel worse the next day. It was a viscous cycle until finally I just waited until I felt completely ready, and then I got back into it slowly, with short, slow runs. I didn't incorporate speed/track for 3-4 weeks after I started up again.

    2. Thanks much! Jenna basically took all of December off. January was a month of lots of slow jogs, and now February she is getting her speed up and lifting again - she still has a long ways to go to get to her pre-mono form. On the bright side, I think she is finally over it - THANK GOODNESS! (2 1/2 months total)

    3. What a relief. And that timeline sounds similar to what I experienced. I came back stronger because I allowed my body to truly rest for the first time in years, and she will probably come back stronger too!