Should you run with a cold?
Uh oh. Your head is feeling fuzzy, your eyes are itchy, your throat is scratchy. You’re coming down with a cold! Disaster, you have your running schedule all mapped out……. what’s a girl to do?
I had this very dilemma last week. I had a humdinger of a cold: pounding head, runny nose, it was just no fun at all. But I didn’t want to miss out on any runs. So what did I do? Well, I actually took a few days off and sulked about it while curled up on the couch. But would I have been alright to soldier on with my running? Let’s take a look.
Is it a cold or flu?
It’s important to differentiate between the two. If you have the flu, then there is no question, you absolutely should not run. The two share some similar symptoms, such as sore throats, and congestion, but there are a few red flags to tell you if you actually have the flu
How to tell if it’s flu:
You will have:
- fever (you might get a slight fever with a cold, but you will get a higher fever with the flu)
- muscle aches
- extreme exhaustion (I remember when my husband had the flu. He slept for 10 days solid)
- congestion might be more severe, or more in your chest than the congestion you feel with a cold
THESE ARE GENERAL GUIDELINES ONLY, I AM NOT A DOCTOR. IF YOU’RE FEELING UNSURE, ASK A HEALTH PROFESSIONAL.
It’s a terrible idea to run with the flu because
- you could really overheat yourself if you run with a fever, and if you’ve been sweating, you will be at risk of dehydration
- if you have congestion in your chest, this could lead to pneumonia (and land you in the hospital)
- you will have an absolutely miserable time on your run (gee, if you even find you can run), it will take you ages to recover, and you will prolong your flu
Okay? So no running if you have the flu, please! You could do your body a lot of damage.
Ok, it’s a cold
Phew, you aren’t in danger, so is it safe to lace up those running shoes?
There seems to be some divided opinions out there on this one.
Some studies have shown that moderate exercise won’t influence the duration of the cold, or how severe it is. But what’s moderate? And these studies were done in people with no other health problems, so if you’ve got other conditions, this won’t apply to you.
Some coaches recommend you wait until you’re feeling 85-90% normal again.
One thing everyone can agree on though, if you have chesty symptoms, you should not run: otherwise you could be putting your respiratory system at risk.
From the research I’ve done for you, the general feeling out there is that if you have a cold with symptoms contained above your neck, you can go for your run. Getting the blood pumping with a bit of exercise even helps some people maintain their energy levels while they get over the cold.
Don’t sprint out that door. You might want to tailor your run to how you’re feeling, and you will want to keep things gentle.
- make it less intense. If today was going to be a hill rep day, maybe swap that out for something easier.
- make it shorter. Now is probably not the best time to be doing your long run.
- walk instead. Particularly if you’re unsure about how you’re feeling, but have decided to head out the door anyway.
- wear the right gear. If it’s cold out, wrap up nice and warm.
- don’t push yourself. If today’s your day to run with that group that push each other, or you’re planning to use your fitness tracker, don’t. Now is not the time for this.
So I’ve decided I probably shouldn’t have sulked about missing my run for a couple of days. I was in doubt, so I sat it out, and this is absolutely okay. I’m back running this week, and appreciating it even more. Your overall running fitness won’t suffer from a few days out, so don’t be hard on yourself, listen to your body, and keep yourself well!
Your running buddy,
image 1 by Tina Frankin, CC 2.0, https://flic.kr/p/mpSPL8, image 2 by Juan Pablo Colasso, CC 2.0, https://flic.kr/p/6tFqTx, image 3 by Joe Hunt, CC 2.0, https://flic.kr/p/qzoTCy