It happens to the best of us. We are in the middle of a training cycle and we get sick. Even if you just run casually and aren’t training for any specific event, you may be asking yourself if it’s okay to run. I woke up on Saturday feeling fine. By noon, I had a sore throat and by bedtime, I was congested. The next day, the sore throat went away, but the congestion and cough were worse than ever (including mucus).
I have always had a personal belief that I need to run anyway. I figure that either I will sweat out the germs or I will make it way worse. While it may seem stupid to do, that has worked for me for a few years now, usually resulting in getting over the symptoms faster. When I run or bike, my congestion disappears, even if it’s only for a little while. Am I doing the right thing though? I ran across this article from Runners Connect by Jeff Gaudette titled “Are you Putting Your Body in Danger by Running While Sick?”
The article breaks down when it’s okay to run and when it will do more harm than good. Some people worry that if they miss some runs that they will lose some of their progress. That’s not typically the case though. The article says that if you miss two or three runs, it will not negatively impact your fitness.
The article say that “If your symptoms are congestion related – runny nose, chest congestion or coughing – you are usually safe to run.” It then goes on to say that an easy run followed by a hot shower may help clear your congestion, which is true from my experience. So you are congested and want to run anyway. How should you tackle the run? The Jeff says that you should reduce the intensity or speed of the workout by replacing your hard run with an easy day. He says to run your intervals at 10-15 seconds slower per mile than normal. If the workout feels good, you can pick up the intensity toward the end of the workout.
If you have flu like symptoms, it is a different story though. It can actually be dangerous and could negatively impact your training by running. If you have achy muscles or are running a fever, you could end up in the hospital or injuring your already stressed muscles. Running will also take energy and nutrients away from helping fight off the virus, which in turn could make your symptoms last longer. Jeff suggests that you take as many days off as needed to get you back to feeling normal. You won’t lose any fitness unless you take at least 10 days off. There is even a link in the article titled “How Long Does it Take to Lose your Running Fitness.”
The most important thing to take into account is to not jump right back into training at maximum intensities. Also, don’t try to make up runs by cramming two weeks worth of runs into a single week. Just pick up where your plans says you should be at and you will be fine. Make the first run or two easy just to help get your body back up to speed.
I hate when I fall out of my training routine. Just ask my wife, I get really irritable. It is better to take care of yourself then make things worse, which could require more time off. Stay healthy and listen to your body, not your pride.
Credit: Jeff Gaudette -“Are you Putting Your Body in Danger by Running While Sick?” - www.runnersconnect.net