Most runners have questioned if they should run when they are sick at one time or another. The short answer to the question “Should you run when you’re sick?” is “it depends”. Running with a fever is different than running with a cold. But that’s not very helpful, right? I thought it might be time to revisit this topic after being sick for the second time in a month. I was tired and didn’t feel great, 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 symptoms 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?
Should You Run When You’re Sick?
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? If there’s nothing super important happening, it really won’t hurt to skip your run. If anything, it will pay off to get some extra rest so you feel better sooner. Running with a cold isn’t worth it if it causes you to miss several days of training.
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? If you can make it a short, easy run with walk breaks, you may be ok to still go out for your run. However, if you know that you are the type of person that will push too hard and overdo it, it may be best to stay home and rest.
Will running when sick 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? This is a tough question but can be really important. Usually I find that if I take 1-2 days off running at be the beginning of a cold, that around day 3 it feels really good to get out and get moving. The flu or a stomach bug will probably require more time off.
Running with allergies
This time of year it may be hard to know if you have a cold or allergies when you don’t feel well. If one of your symptoms is itchy eyes, it is probably allergies, and if you are coughing or have a sore throat it is probably a cold. Usually it is ok to run with allergies, but you may have to make modifications to your routine to keep your symptoms at bay.
You may also like: Running with Spring Allergies
Consulting a doctor
Of course when you’re sick it is best to consult a doctor for a diagnosis and to find out if you have any restrictions on activities. Most of us don’t usually do that when we have a cold or allergies. But these days, when anything could be COVID, it’s not a bad idea to get checked out just to be safe. Many doctors are even offering telemedicine appointments now. Knowing exactly what’s wrong, getting medication (if needed) and understanding your treatment plan will help you recover and get back to training faster.
Final thoughts on running when you’re sick
When in doubt, it’s better to take an extra rest day (or more) if you’re not sure of whether or not you should run. Runners are stubborn and we 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.
The best option is to avoid getting sick in the first place! Here are 9 Healthy Habits to Avoid Getting Sick This Winter.
How do you decide if you will run when you don’t feel well?
Will you run with a cold?
Are you stubborn about getting your runs in, or ok with taking a few days off?
Now it’s time for the Runners’ Roundup! Link up your running and fitness posts below! Join myself, Coach Debbie Runs, Confessions of a Mother Runner, Runs with Pugs , and Laura Norris Running to post your favorite running tips, experiences, race and training recaps, workouts, gear, and coaching ideas.
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.