To Run (When Sick) or Not To Run

It seems to always be the question this time of year. You’ve been training, progressing steadily towards your pre-race goals and then, BOOM, it comes out of nowhere! You wake up with a sore throat; you’re in the middle of an afternoon meeting and feel a headache/stuffy nose combo building; you’re out on a date and keep adding layers or taking them off because the hot/cold flashes keep getting increasingly worse. And all you can seem to think about is how many miles you’re scheduled to run the next day. Ever happened to you?

Happened to me just last week. Being sick is never fun, period. When you’re training, it’s worse – a bazillion times worse. Being sick while training for a big race usually has us thinking that it’ll be a HUGE setback and we’ll lose any training we’ve already got under out belt. It would probably be best to take the day off of work, dating, life, whatever…and just nip it in the butt. Catch it before it flares up into something nasty. However, as athletes, we usually don’t. “Oh, my throat is scratchy but I can totally run those 6 miles today, not a problem.”

BEFORE you head out your door to get in your daily miles, take the “neck check test.” It’s super simple and great to use as a gauge of if you should work out when sick or not.

How does it work? Well, if your symptoms are above the neck (runny or stuffy nose, scratchy/sore throat and sneezing), then mild running will be ok to do. In fact, it might even aid in the healing process! Exercising releases adrenaline (aka epinephrin) into your system. Fun fact for the day-epinephrin is a natural decongestant. That’s always excellent news 🙂 Whether your run inside or outside, just be aware of your body and how it feels – if you start to get lightheaded or dizzy, you should probably STOP running and go rest at home for the day. Seriously, it’s for the best. If you do go, remember to bundle up! You’re still (slightly) sick.


If your symptoms are below the neck (fatigue, muscle aches, fever, hacking cough, swollen glands, chills, diarrhea, vomiting, etc.), chances are you have a virus. This, of course, means that the absolute BEST thing you can do for yourself is to NOT run. When you exercise with conditions like these, it increases your dehydration, only making your symptoms get worse. It’s not worth it!  Take a few days to a week off. It might seem to “kill” you, but it’s what’s absolutely best for your body.

Don’t worry – if you do need to take time off from training to heal, it won’t take too much time to get back to the condition you were before you got sick. Your muscle memory is AMAZING! Give it some credit and let it work its magic. As long as you pace yourself and don’t jump in feet first to the 20+ miles you were suppose to run the day before, your fabulous body will be back in great shape and good spirits before you know it. So, don’t get down on yourself because you can’t go running. Having a positive attitude will help your recovery! The hardest part about running after getting over an illness? Starting at a good distance and pace, slowly increasing so you DON’T overload your body (which, duh, can just make you get sick again).


So, since the colder months are here and quickly dropping in temperatures…keep your chin up, your box of Kleenex handy, hot fluids in your body and don’t be afraid to rest and recover! Your body will thank you and you’ll be a better runner for it 🙂