The short answer to the question “Should you run when you’re sick?” is “it depends”. But that’s not very helpful, right? Last week I got sick for the first and only time in 2017 after being away in bitter-cold Michigan. I didn’t eat well, didn’t sleep well, traveled on a plane, and was around a sick 2 year old, so it was really the perfect storm. Once I was sick I was tired and felt awful, but I wanted to get in my miles! What’s a runner to do?
The general guideline for running when sick is that if symptoms are above the neck that it’s ok to exercise, but not if symptom are below the neck. This has always been confusing to me, because often times I know I just have a cold, but I’m still extremely tired. I feel like I “should” be able to run, but is that always the best decision?
Here are a few things to consider when deciding if you should run:
What do you have to lose if you don’t run?
Are you training for a race? Will you miss out on a special opportunity? Will you not be able to run another time for one reason or another?
How far/fast are you planning to run?
Can you keep your miles short and easy? Can you take walking breaks if needed? Will you be willing to cut your run short?
Will running make you feel better or worse?
Do you think that the fresh air and moving around will help, or will it just set you back and cause more time off from running?
Keep in mind that certain conditions, like cold air in the winter, can make a small cold turn into something worse.
When in doubt, it’s better to take an extra rest day if you’re not sure of whether or not you should run. Runners are stubborn and don’t give up on our miles easily. If you do decide to run, take it easy and see how you feel. If you feel better after the first few minutes, it’s probably ok to keep going. However, if you start to feel worse, then it’s probably best to cut your run short and rest up for a few more days.
After writing this post, I decided that I probably should not have run last weekend when I was sick. Luckily, it didn’t make me any worse, but I may have gotten better faster if I hadn’t run. Especially since I was outdoors in freezing temperatures. Lesson learned for next time!
How do you decide if you will run when you don’t feel well?
Are you stubborn about getting your runs in, or ok with taking a few days off?
I am not a doctor or medical professional. This post is based on my own research and experience. Please consult a healthcare professional if you need more help deciding if you are too sick to run.