Running and Sickness

It’s that time of year… the time when everyone seems to be sick. My classes seem to be filled with students constantly coughing, sneezing, or blowing their noses.

Unfortunately I became one of those obnoxious sick people last week. To my credit, though, I hadn’t been sick since last October, which is a record for me! Most people that know me realize I normally get a cold about once a month in the winter, so I guess it was about time that I got sick.

What started with a sore throat has progressed to a full blown runny nose and cough. Granted to say, I’m not feeling too hot. Add on top of that a big anatomy test today and this past week wasn’t too much fun.

Green Dog_Sick

I was still able to keep my running on schedule, though. It can be kind of difficult to determine when to tackle a workout or when to ease back on the gas pedal.

Like most runners, I hate taking off days. Let me rephrase that: I hate taking UNSCHEDULED off days. I believe that one day off a week is healthy – both mentally and physically. However, I absolutely hate when I get more than that off a week. It makes me feel lazy and just… not normal. Plus, I feel like my appetite goes crazy. I don’t know if any other runners get like this, but my appetite goes through the roof when I don’t run – crazy as that sounds.

The rule I normally follow to figure out when to run or not is as follows: If it’s just a minor head cold with no fever or stomach problems, then it is probably fine to run. I’m not saying that you should run a hard interval workout or compete in a race, but an easy effort run might not be all that bad.  I find that I hardly ever feel worse when I run with a cold. It kind of helps to clear everything out (I know, too much information). Plus, the endorphins aren’t too bad either. It gives you a little something to feel happy about when you’re not feeling very good.

However, the number one rule is to listen to your body. Test your limits and learn from them. Everyone is different. Sometimes it’s okay to push through a workout while other times your body just needs rest and time to heal. Even though I’ve been running since I was little, sometimes I have a hard time listening to my body.

I can remember a couple times in high school when I pushed through a sickness that I probably shouldn’t have. I remember a particularly tough race during cross-country season. I got sick with a cold on Monday of that week and knew that I had a race that upcoming Saturday. I hadn’t even missed a day of school or a workout. By Friday the cold was pretty much cleared up and I thought it would be silly for me not to race and help out my team. Boy, was I wrong. I had the worst dead legs feeling I had ever experienced before. My body just felt like a big tub of lard and the harder I pushed, the slower I felt. Although my sinuses were cleared up, the rest of my body definitely wasn’t okay.

All in all, it’s important to be tuned into your body. Learn when to push and when to back off. It’s not an exact science, but if you take the time to learn then it can definitely pay off.

Do you run when you’re sick? How do you determine if you should/shouldn’t run?


12 thoughts on “Running and Sickness

  1. I use the “neck rule” too, and my exercise physiology prof in grad school endorsed it as well. If you have a real cough (not just a post-nasal drip one) then running is a bad idea.

    My college coach used the delightful phrase “lung butter” to describe the result of running with bronchitis. Good luck getting that one out of your head 🙂

    • Yeah, the neck rule is a pretty good thing to go by. Luckily, my cough is just from the cold clearing out. Lung butter – haha! That seems to fit it pretty well.

  2. I’ve just recently started running every/almost everyday and am worried about this myself. As a high school teacher, I’m exposed to some awful illnesses, and worry about my marathon training.

    With that in mind, any time it’s a stomach thing, I avoid the pounding that running puts me through. I have ran through migraines — sometimes to a helpful outcome — and other illnesses, but anything stomach related and I’m on the sidelines.

    • I bet you’re exposed to a lot of illness working as a teacher – I definitely feel that way when I’m at school as well. I agree – you don’t mess with stomach problems. All of the bouncing and pounding that running has doesn’t go too well with an upset stomach.

  3. Yes, it’s best to listen to your body! I’ll run through colds and such, but luckily I don’t get too sick too often. However,t he other day I fell on my run and jacked up my knee. The swelling has since gone down, but I kind of told myself to rest it until the scabs go away. Hopefully that’s enough time to heal!

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