Should You Run While You Are Sick?

How to Deal with Post-Running Pains

Runners preparing for competitions undergo intensive training for months. This training usually follows a strict schedule which runners adhere to. Still, even runners aren’t invincible; everyone is at risk of getting sick anytime. It’s understandable why some runners insist on practicing or running in preparation for competitions even when they’re not feeling well—they don’t want to miss a day’s practice or miss an opportunity to run because it may affect their overall progress.

However, is it really safe to run while you’re feeling sick? Will missing a day or two in running really impact your running performance?

Some runners follow the ‘neck rule’ in deciding whether or not to run when they’re ill. The ‘neck rule’ dictates that if your sickness is only affecting body parts above your neck—when you’re just experiencing headaches, stuffy or runny nose, then it shouldn’t stop you from running. On the other hand, when you’re experiencing pains below your neck (severe sore throat, chest pains, muscle aches, etc.), you should skip running. This rule is also followed by David Nieman, Ph.D., head of the Human Performance Laboratory at Appalachian State University. Dr. Nieman is an experienced runner himself, and has joined 58 marathons and ultra marathons. Moreover, a research led by Tom Weidner, Ph.D., director of Athletic Training Research at Ball State University, found out that running does not worsen the condition of people with colds, as long as runners with colds don’t push themselves beyond their limits. Additionally, running when you’re suffering from colds can actually make you feel better because the exercise helps clear out nasal passages due to the adrenaline released when running.

However, you should always be cautious when you opt to run while sick. Don’t expect your performance to be as great as it was when you’re feeling well. Be extra aware of how your body feels and decide carefully if you really can run despite your illness.

If you have a fever, it is wiser to skip running. Take as many days off as you need to recover. Running with high fever may lead to complications and will just delay your body’s recovery. A day or two without training won’t hurt your running performance, and if recovery takes longer than that, you can always work on getting your performance back. A study conducted by Elizabeth Ready and Arthur Quinney proposes that for it won’t take long for athletes or runners to get back to their initial fitness.

Once you get enough rest and feel an improvement on how you feel, it’s normal that one of your priorities would be to get back to running. Take it easy and give your body time to adjust. You may start running at a moderate pace with short distances.

Getting sick is normal for both runners and non-runners. Sure, you want to take care of your progress in running—just don’t forget to protect yourself as well.