Should You Run Through a Cold or the Flu?

You’ve hit a positive groove with your running routine, and you’re feeling pretty damn good about it. Then, out of a clear blue sky, you find yourself sniffing, sneezing, and not feeling so great. Damn it, you just got a cold.

Should you skip the road miles and opt for a late afternoon nap, or do you tough it out and keep going as if nothing has happened?

The answer, as we’re going to see in today’s post, depends on what ails you.  To make the decision less complicated, I’ll provide you with clear guidelines on what illnesses to run through and when to rest up.

The Above Vs. The Below

When deciding whether to keep training or give it a rest, use what doctors call “the neck check,” or, as it is more commonly known, the above/below the neck rule.

Although it’s not an exact science, this rule should give you a rough idea of when you should keep going and when to stop. It’s also way better than guesstimating your own ability and hoping for the best.

Feel free to go running if your symptoms are above the neck. These symptoms include:

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Tearing eyes
  • Stuffiness

To avoid any risks, keep your exercise intensity light or moderate. Do not do more than you can handle. This is not the time to break a personal record. Also, consider taking a non-drowsy decongestant to help relieve your symptoms.

What you need to be wary of are symptoms involving the neck and below. These include:

  • Sore throat
  • Hacking cough
  • High fever
  • Vomiting
  • Chest congestion
  • Bronchial infection
  • Swollen glands
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Body and muscles aches

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you should flat-out skip your run. Ignore your body’s red flags at your peril.

How Much Rest?

Again, the answer depends on you. In general, colds usually last for a week to ten days, but you may require as many as two to three weeks to bounce back from the flu, depending on the severity.

Take as many days as you need to get back to normal. It’s best to wait for a full 24 hours of being symptom-free — especially after a fever — before returning to training.

For example, if you get sick on a Tuesday evening, take Wednesday through Friday off. If you feel 80 to 90 percent well on Saturday, feel free to get back to running on Sunday.

Keep It Simple

As a safety precaution, don’t go all out for the first few sessions after having been sick. Start at 70 to 80 percent of your usual intensity and increase incrementally for the first week or so. Add walk breaks when needed. That’s how you stay on the safe side.

Pay attention to your body and watch out for nausea, dizziness, elevated heart rate, or profuse (and abnormal) sweating. Back off immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.

Following a cold, your immune system will likely still be fragile and weak, and your body may not be ready to function at full capacity. Try to ignore the signs and you’ll only end up prolonging your recovery phase.

Prevent The Cold

Here are a few simple measures you can take to minimize the risks of catching a cold:

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Change out of your running clothes and into a dry outfit immediately following a run
  • Get plenty of Vitamin C into your diet
  • Avoid sick people
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Wear a bandana or scarf over your mouth and nose to protect yourself from the cold air
  • Keep your surroundings clean
  • Keep up a healthy lifestyle
  • Get your flu shot
  • See a doctor for more options.

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There you have it. The above guidelines should provide with enough information to help decide whether you should keep running when you’re sick. I hate to sound like a broken record, but as I always say, the key to staying injury free and comfortable while running is to always listen to your body. That’s the cardinal rule.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments section if you have any comments or questions.

In the meantime thank you for reading my post.

Keep Running Strong

David D.