Note: this was written January 31, but stuck in my drafts this whole time, what’s up with that? Anyways..
I didn’t even have a full week to celebrate my terrific showing at the Carlsbad Half before I had to get sick with a cold. On Wednesday morning after my run (just three days after my race), I noticed my nose running a little. It got worse when I was at work and was sneezing all day (and I’m a loud sneezer too!) I also played about 2 hours of basketball that night, which probably wasn’t the best idea, especially since I haven’t played in almost 6 months. I was already sore that night, so I had planned to just sleep in the next morning since I would be extra sore and getting extra sleep should help my body recover. I was still sneezing the next day at work and I started to get the ‘cold voice’, which I personally like. I was coughing a little too, but not to the point where I got chest pains every time it happened. I decided to take Friday off as well, just to be safe. But by this time, my legs were itching for a run already. So on Saturday, despite having to endure a never ending runny nose, I decided to go out for an easy trot. And it went surprisingly well. My pace may have been very slow, but I was happy I was out sweating off all the calories I didn’t get to burn off for the past two days. My breathing felt very normal and heart rate looked fine too. So I’m sitting here now wondering if the day’s run helped my body get better or just made it worse. So I decided to read what others had to say and their experiences with running while being sick, specifically with a cold.
From what I read online, it sounds like different runners have different experiences and recommendations. Some runners like to run through it, not wanting to miss a day on their training program. But others will begin resting the moment they feel something coming up. It really depends on the runner and how much each person is willing to risk, because there are definitely risks when it comes to running while sick. The chances of getting worse by continuing to run while you’re sick are increased if you don’t rest.
There seems to be a rule of thumb when it comes to running while sick called the “neck rule”. Any symptoms that are above your neck including a runny/stuffy nose or sneezing is OK to run with but anything below the neck (chest cold, bronchial infection, excessive coughing, body ache), you should rest. There are a few exceptions to this rule though. If you have something worse than a cold, then you can risk getting a sinus infection by continuing to run. Try to ‘sweat’ out a cold or fever by running may keep you sicker than the time you would have needed to fully recover. “Exercise boosts endorphin levels, but high levels of endorphins are bad for you if you are trying to repair your immune system. Running while you have a fever isn’t a great idea either, due to the raise in body temperature your heart is already working harder.” I also read somewhere that said running actually helps you when you’re sick, not exactly sure why, but I’ll agree with that statement if it means not having to take an unnecessary rest day.
So if you decide to go out and run while you’re sick, hoping it’s just a cold, but find that you’re having trouble breathing, your body aches, or you have chest pains/congestion, then you definitely need to take a few days off. Just take it as an extended rest day for the week. And of course, make sure to follow the motherly saying, “get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids.”