The Rules of Running While Sick

Running while sick

As runners, we are programmed to run. We’re fiercely loyal to our routines and days off don’t exist unless scheduled within our training programs. This is why taking ‘sick days’ is so unbelievably difficult for us. Regardless of how tough it is to sleep in an extra hour instead of hitting the park for a 6-miler, resting while sick is essential for overall health, fitness and training quality. So how do you know when your illness requires you to sit this one out?

Rest if:

  • Your symptoms are below the neck:
    • Chest cold
    • Bronchial infection
    • Body ache
  • You have a sinus infection
  • Your temperature is above 99 degrees

Run if:

  • Your symptoms are above the neck (running can actually help in these cases!):
    • Runny nose
    • Stuffiness
    • Sneezing

If your sickness requires you to rest, take the appropriate time off and don’t try to get back in the game too early. If you’re dealing with a sinus infection, it is a good rule of thumb to take 3 full days off of running. Anything less than 72 hours puts you at risk of pneumonia or other major respiratory infections. If it’s just a fever or the flu, wait to hit the pavement until the day after your symptoms disappear.

It is also essential that you ease slowly back into your running routine after an illness hiatus. Wait one to two weeks before resuming your pre-illness fitness level to prevent a relapse. It can be helpful in your first few runs back to fluctuate between walking and running in order to gain back stamina and endurance.

Remember- it takes 10 days without exercise for running fitness to be compromised, so a few days off won’t hurt if an illness forces you to rest. Listen to your body and take it easy. Forcing a run can only worsen your symptoms and might have you taking more days off in the future. One recuperation day now can pave the way for many strong training days in your future!

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