Running While Sick – Should you Run with a Cold?

sick runner

Whether you’re a few runs away from reaching your ideal body weight or are in the thick of training for your 12th marathon, any little setback can put a real dent in your progress, especially when it’s something as common as the common cold.

This is the moment when you should  really ask yourself, “Should you?” instead of “Can you go for a run?”

And the answer largely depends on what ails you.

In today’s post, I’ll delve into the subject of running while sick, how to know when you’re good to head out for a run and when it’ time to cave in and take rest.

Let’s get started.

Running While Sick – The Above Vs. The Below

There are a lot of factors to consider when planning to keep running while sick.

This includes the severity of your illness as well as the intensity of your training.

When deciding whether to go for a run or a nap, use “the neck check,” or, as it is often referred to as the above/below the neck rule.

Sure, it’s not an exact science, but the rule will undoubtedly provide you with a rough idea of when it’s best to keep training and when to rest.

It also beats playing the odds.

The Above Symptoms—Okay to go For a Run

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

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

To err on the side of caution, keep your running intensity light or moderate

Avoid pushing your body too much.

This is not the time for pursuing a new personal best.

During this time, it’s okay to skip flu medication and keep going.

The Below Symptoms – Don’t Go For A Run

Experts would advise against keeping up with your training if your symptoms are “below the neck.” Symptoms include:

Make it a rule to skip a run when suffering one or more of these symptoms.

Running through severe sickness can only make things worse—and you don’t want that.

Running While Sick – How Much Rest?

Again, the answer depends on what ails you, as in the severity of your symptoms.

In general, colds often last for a week to ten days, but a serious case of the flu may set you back to up to two to three weeks.

The rule of thumb is to take as many recovery days as needed to go back to normal.

I’d suggest that you wait for a full 24 hours of being symptom-free before doing any hard training, especially after a fever.

For example, if you got sick on a Monday evening, avoid any strenuous activity from Tuesday through Thursday.

If you feel almost back to normal on Friday, resume training on Saturday.

Remember to listen to your body and adjust all the time.

Just keep in mind that a few rest days won’t affect your conditioning level.

It’s always better to skip a few runs than try to push through to only force the symptoms to come back.

Don’t put your ego first if you want a speed recovery.

woman running with a cold

When Is It Safe to Start Running Again After a Cold?

As your condition starts to improve, begin to ease back into your regular exercise plan—as long as you’re doing it slowly and gradually.

Avoid going all out on the first few runs.

Start at no more than 70 percent of your typical intensity, then increase it slowly over the first week or so.

Take as many walk breaks as needed.

Listen to your body and pay attention to red flags such as nausea, dizziness, increased heart rate, or excessive (and abnormal) sweating.

Ease up if you notice any of these symptoms.

Your immune system is likely compromised following sickness, and your body may not be yet ready to perform at full capacity.

If you resume training as if nothing happened, you’ll more than likely end up prolonging your recovery period or even risking a relapse.

Prevent The Cold

While there’s an overnight cure for the cold, there are many measures you can take to help your body recover faster and prevent future flare-ups.

Here are a few simple measures to consider:

  • Wash your hands frequently. This helps kill germs that may compromise your immune system.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Shoot for at least 7 to 9 hours a night.
  • Change out of your running clothes and into a dry outfit immediately following a run.
  • Get plenty of Vitamin C into your diet. Key for improving immune function. Also, drink plenty of water. Vitamin can’t work alone without water.
  • When running in winter, put a bandana or scarf over your mouth and nose. You should also wear as many layers as needed to stay comfortable.
  • Keep up a healthy lifestyle. Eat clean, meditate, avoid stress, and have fun.
  • See a doctor for more options.


Now you have a rough idea of when you should keep running while 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.

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.


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