Running with a cold? Should you do it? Can you possibly avoid it with my immune boosting tips? And what about if it’s more than a sniffle??
You’ve been washing your hands like a mad woman, eating plenty of greens and of course taking care of your body with smart training….right?
But you touched an elevator button that someone who has been less enthusiastic with their health did and now you’re making it rain tissues. Because you’re a runner the first thing you find yourself asking is “Can I still run“? instead of “should i see a doctor?”
It’s been noted that we’re crazy and this is a good example of why.
Today we’re exploring the age old question of running while sick. How to know when you’re good to go and when it’s really time for a solid recovery day.
Working Out While Sick Might Be Good A Good Thing
For the majority of people, the immune system will respond favorably to an easy run (not the time for your hardest track workout of the year). Doctors think this could be due to a few factors:
- The short term increase in body temperature seems to help fight bacterial growth.
- We know running releases endorphin’s, which make us happy…being happy is a big boost to the immune system and can therefore help ward off illness.
- Science also shows that because running increases blood flow, it means a quicker circulation of white blood cells throughout the body, which enhances the immune system.
“Check in with yourself 10 minutes after starting your workout,” exercise physiologist Ellen Breeding says. “If you feel fine, then carry on. But if you don’t feel great, then wrap it up right then and there, or else you’ll make it worse.”
BONUS: Checkout my drug free tips for preventing illness!! I swear by them during heavy training and with all my travels.
Note for Endurance Athletes
Are you getting sick a lot? It could be a signal that you’re over training.
Endurance athletes have an increased risk of illness when their training reaches peak levels or especially after an event where we’re giving our full effort. During that time cortisol rises, antibodies in saliva drop dramatically and a number of other very sciency things happen making our body more susceptible to disease.Why Endurance Athletes get sick! What to do this winter! #runchat Click To Tweet
Our lowered immunity is temporary, lasting from three to 72 hours after an intense, prolonged event. Nevertheless, it presents an ideal opportunity to viruses and other invading pathogens, especially those that enter the body through the respiratory system.
In fact, according to David Nieman, professor of health and exercise science at Appalachian State University, someone running the Western States 100 miler has more like a 1 in 4 chance of getting ill.
Running While Sick: How to Decide Go or No
When you’re whole body hurts, it’s pretty easy to know you need the day off, but other times it’s not quite so obvious.
Running when sick is often simply about trying to stay on track with our training to hit a big goal. But as noted previously, there could be some benefits like helping to simply improve your mood through boosting those endorphins, helping you to simply feel more like yourself and well sweat.
Can you sweat out a cold? Sort of! You won’t actually get rid of the cold, but it can temporarily improve your symptoms, as described above!
A common standard for deciding to run or not is the ‘neck check’:
- Runny nose? Sore throat? You’re good to go, keep it easy as noted.
- Trouble breathing? Hacking Cough? Take another rest day.
- High temperature or aching muscles? Probably need at least a week for your immune system to recover.
- GI Distress? Stomach Issues? Really, do you want to run…it’s going to make this all feel worse.
- Fatigued? If nothing else is bothering you an easy run might be what the doctor ordered.
Even Dr’s running tests on sick runners, were surprised to see that really they were totally ok to exercises. “I was surprised their lung function wasn’t impaired,” Dr. Kaminsky, exercise physiologist at Ball State said. “I was surprised their overall exercise performance wasn’t impaired, even though they were reporting feeling fatigued.”
Will running with a cold make it worse?
Unlikely, but review your symptoms on the chart above and be honest with yourself about whether this is just a moment of germs or signs that you’ve been pushing too hard and your body needs rest.
As a runner there are times where recovery is every bit as key to the training process and getting yourself out the door when motivation is lagging. If your body is begging for rest, then let go of the stress of missing a few runs and recover so that you can return 100%.Answering the age old question --- Should I Workout When Sick? #health Click To Tweet
If you’ve passed the can I run test above, then here are a few more tips for your run.
TIPS FOR RUNNING WITH A COLD
Will running with a cold make it worse? Unlikely if you’re smart about not trying to go out and crush a track workout and have passed the check list above.
- Lower the intensity – go at a comfortable pace
- Stop your interval training as it puts your body under too much stress
- Cut the distance – now’s not the time to run long
- Turn off any GPS tracking devices so you’re not tempted to push yourself too hard
- Don’t run in a competitive group that will push you beyond your comfort zone
- Stay clear of races – you might need to pull out of any big ones coming up
Running a Race with a Cold?
What if your concern isn’t just your everyday training, but the big race that you’ve been working up to for months now? Based on the studies and the above tips, if you’re just blowing snocket rockets and maybe a little coughing then go for it.
Run your race as hard as you want. It could feel harder if your body is depleted, so make sure you’re doing everything you can to support it in the days before with rest, electrolytes and high quality nutrition.
POST RACE you need to take recovery twice as seriously as normal. Because your body was fighting something going in to the heavy load, you’ve increased your cortisol and now need to really give your body every chance at recovery.
What if you’ve missed training due to being sick?
If you’ve gotten the flu or other illness and had to miss more that a few runs, read this story on how to get back on track after missed training.
All right, hopefully this helps to put to bed all your questions around should you run if you’re sick? The answer is really it depends on what type of illness and then being smart about the workouts that you do.
Do you: get sick yearly? Stay healthy as a horse?
What’s your rule of thumb for running when sick?
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