Mountain Mama: Should I Run While I’m Sick?

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Runners hate missing a training run – even when they’re feeling under the weather. Here’s an easy way to decide when to take a sick day.

Dear Mountain Mama,

I caught a cold and I’m not sure whether I should push through and run my long run or not. I want to feel better and let my body recover, but I also hate skipping a run, especially this close to the marathon.

Should I run while I’m sick?



Dear Sniffling,

‘Tis the season for basting turkeys, buying gifts, and, unfortunately, getting sick. Adding to the stress of the holidays are the additional miles you’re racking up as the marathon approaches. Don’t let worrying about missing a few days of training add to your worries. Sniffling, you won’t ruin your fitness gains by taking a day or two completely off from you training schedule. Generally speaking, it takes ten days to lose significant running fitness, so if you’re feeling under the weather, it’s always a safe bet to take a sick day.

Runners can be an obsessive lot, and often it’s more difficult for us to refrain from running. When we’re not feeling 100% but aren’t sick enough to take a day off from work, we’re probably well enough to run.

The general rule is if you’re experiencing above-the-neck symptoms, you’ve got a green light to lace up your shoes. It’s okay to run when you’re sneezing, your head is congested, or your throat is sore. Cardio may actually open your nasal passages and relieve some of your symptoms. Getting some fresh air and soaking up Vitamin D can help you to feel physically and psychologically better.

If you’re experiencing below-the-neck symptoms like diarrhea, chest congestion, upset stomach, fever, fatigue or achy muscles, running is a no-go. Recover from your sickness before resuming your work-outs or risk exacerbating your illness. Running compromises your immune system and makes your body more susceptible to bacteria and viruses already making you unwell, especially during the first 20 hours after exercising. When you’re sick, your body needs all your energy and nutrients to fight the virus. Absolutely don’t run if you have the flu or a fever.

Sniffling, allow your body to recover before running. Wait one day after you feel better to hit the trails to prevent a relapse, and decrease your overall intensity and duration when you do head out for a run.

I hope you feel better!

Mountain Mama


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