Should You Run While Sick?

Should You Run While Sick?

by Mary Thorson

It’s December, the month that everyone looks forward to all year long. It’s a time of skiing, building a snowman, breaks from school and work, holiday parties, gift buying and giving, and watching your favorite holiday movies with a cup of hot cocoa by the fire. I am a mom of four. I always expect December to look like that, but in reality it turns into frantically trying to think of gifts while running between end of the year dance recitals, orchestra concerts, school parties, swim team party, and needing to get Secret Santa gifts for every child for 5 different parties (and don’t forget to move the Elf on the Shelf). And then here I am on December 6th, sick, after already getting one child through the flu.

But Can I Still Run?

If you are anything like me, running is your outlet from life’s craziness. We are disciplined and run through anything: snow, rain, wind, and heat. Getting sick messes up EVERYTHING!! It is easy to chalk sickness up as one more condition to just push through. The idea of skipping a run to stay in bed surrounded by tissues can be completely unappealing. “And what if it is worse tomorrow? Then I definitely need to push through today.” If you are in the middle of a training cycle, making the right decision on whether or not to run can be even harder.

It requires discipline to be able to listen to your body and give it the appropriate rest when needed. But there are a few “rules” out there that can help make the right decision.

Above/Below the Throat Rule

Experts like to cite a rule of thumb known as the “Neck Rule”. If all your symptoms are above the neck – runny nose, stuffiness, sneezing – then you are safe to run if it feels good. Many runners actually find that running with a head cold makes them feel better. It can help decrease congestion. However you shouldn’t expect your body to perform perfectly. You are still fighting something, so ease your pace, knock off a few miles from the plan, and push that speed workout back for another day.

If your symptoms are in the neck or below – sore throat, chest congestion, body aches, chills, cough, vomiting, swollen glands – then it is time to stay in bed. You will not lose fitness by taking a few days off. However trying to run through a sickness like this can increase your recovery time. Taking time to rest allows your body to focus on fighting the infection instead of expending energy on your planned run for the day.

If you have a fever, you should not run  no matter what your other symptoms are. Running raises your body’s core temperature, which  means if you run with a fever, your body’s temperature will increase even more. Your body will push into overdrive trying to fight this and can delay your recovery time even more.

Listen to Your Body

I know. It’s hard. Especially in the world we live in with Instagram, Facebook, and Strava. It feels good to get the pat on the back for running through hard stuff. Don’t let your comparison to others drive you to be unhealthy. Chose the path that will lead to the fastest recovery, even if that means laying on the couch for a day or two. Despite the “Neck Rule”, if you feel weak and that you need rest, then do it!

For me, right now at this moment, I hope to take my own advice and hit the couch. Secretly, I am pretty excited about using the time to binge watch Hallmark Christmas movies.

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