3 Rules for Running When Sick

I’ve been fighting a sinus cold the last few days. Actually almost a week now, this sucker is really holding on. The dead legs I had for my long ride on Saturday? Turns out they might no have just been fried from the mid-week hills and interval workouts. It’s more likely I was half-fried and half-getting sick. Which leads me to the constant runner conundrum: do I continue to work out or do I sit it out until I’m better?I took Sunday and Monday off, but today despite feeling on marginally physically better, I was going to get something done on the treadmill if only to feel psychologically better. I hate missing workouts. I have a hard time being inactive even when a training blocks calls for a rest day, so not doing anything for three days while feeling crappy had me in an even crappier mood.


#1. Do a neck check

If your symptoms are above the neck, like a sore throat, congestion, sneezing, and watery eyes, then it’s OK to exercise. It actually might help as adrenaline and endorphins are good natural decongestants. If your symptoms are below the neck, such as coughing, body aches, fever, and fatigue, then it’s probably better to rest and wait at least 24 hours after the symptoms subside before resuming any exercise routine.


#2. Fear the Fever

If you have a fever, it’s best to sit out the exercise until it subsides. Fever is a big limiting factor. By exercising you are raising your body’s internal temperature and if you already have a fever to start….you’re just going to make yourself more sick.

See also:   Wednesday Workout: Trail Running


#3. Go Easy

If you are like me, you probably feel worse when you stop exercising, so doing some kind of exercise with a mild cold can have psychological and physical benefits (see the decongestant note above). The key is intensity. Do what you can, but stop if you don’t feel up to it. These runs should be about maintaining your fitness, not about improving it. And definitely stop at any sign of dizziness, nausea, elevated heart rate.


For me, this is all made a bit more tricky with my Addisons. When your body is sick, it is basically in a stressed state fighting off the infection. What does your body use when it’s stressed? The adrenal glands and cortisol. Two things I no longer have, so I need to balance my dosage when sick with the benefits of running, as well. I’m a bit more cautious than I used to be.

Still, after two days of rest, I thought getting some activity was worth the tradeoff. I managed a 45 minute treadmill run at a very easy pace (almost a minute slower than a typical easy run would be for me), but getting moving and taking that hot shower afterward was just as good as a hot bowl of soup in improving my mood.



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