This Runner's Trials

That "should I run when I’m sick" question

Posted by runnerstrials

Thank you all so much for your comments on my SMART goals.

Today, I witnessed a truly inspiring running event. One of my Girls on the Run girls- who usually walks most of the time and complains about running- ran 3 miles without stopping! She’s only 8 and is the tiniest little thing.

The girls were encouraged to do 2 miles. After she sprinted 2 miles, I told her to keep going because we had time left. She continued and finished 3 whole miles! She told me at the end she ran the last lap despite having a stomach cramp because she really wanted to finish. You should have seen the smile on her face. She had no idea she had it in her. I have never been so proud :)


That was all the inspiration I needed to give it my all during my marathon next weekend. I’m going all out because we never know what we’re capable of until we try.

But there is one minor issue that’s worrying me right now…

I woke up with a cold yesterday :(

Yup, I’m 10 days from my marathon, haven’t been sick for a year, and got a cold. Only me.

The annoying thing is that this hasn’t turned into a bedridden- nyquil-downing- knocking on death’s door cold… yet. It’s the yet that scares me. I’m paranoid that these minor symptoms will morph two days before my race.

I have been babying myself like crazy to get over this bug. All evening plans have been canceled, I’ve been going to bed early (sorry Situation, Pauly, Snooki and JWoww :( ), and I’ve tweaked my diet to be cold-friendly.

Plenty of peppermint tea and vitamin C. Note: The jury is still out on whether or not vitamin C prevents or treats colds, or does nothing at all. I figure it can’t hurt. (source)


And pretzel m&ms. Note: The jury is not still out on whether or not pretzel m&ms help colds or not. They do. Try it. They work ;)


And plenty of doggie cuddling :)

I’ve just been being as lazy as possible.

Health education interruption: Did you guys know there’s basically nothing you can do to quickly get over a cold? It’s true that decongestants, tea, and other remedies help ease symptoms and make you more comfortable, but only time can cure a virus. Once you have a cold, the immune system works to fight off the virus. This usually takes a few days to a week. (source)

But there are plenty of things you can do to lengthen the course of a cold. Not caring for your body, skimping on rest, or exercising too much make it harder for your body to fight the infection.

Did I say exercising? Why, yes, I did. So, have I been running the past 2 days with my cold? Why, yes, I have.

I know you’ve all heard of the runner symptom check before:

  • Run when symptoms are above the neck. If symptoms are moderate, exercise is usually ok and may be beneficial. (source)
  • Do not exercise when symptoms are below the neck.

I’ve always thought this advice was unhelpful for a few reasons:

1. Is your throat above or below your neck? Seriously, I can’t tell. I thought it was in my neck. My colds always come with sore throats so this advice does not help me.

2. There’s really no way to tell if running will make you feel worse unless you actually run. Stay with me here. I could skip my run, and still feel really sick for days. Or I could run, and feel sick for days. If I skipped my run, I’d attribute the worse illness to a virulent virus strain. If I ran, I’d blame my declined condition on the workout.

My point is, the “should I? shouldn’t I” game really confuses me. I’d rather see how my body feels. If I feel horrendous and am coughing up or blowing out all colors of mucus, you bet I’m staying on the couch. If I have so-so symptoms, I’m going to go out there and try to run and see what happens.

And the strategy has worked well for me this week:

  • Yesterday, I woke up feeling crummy, but ok enough to lace up my shoes. But not well enough to do the 5 mile tempo run with 3 miles at 7:35 that was scheduled. I ran 5 miles at 8:06 and felt strong and healthy :)
  • Today, I felt a little weaker when I got up but my symptoms subsided a bit. My easy 4 miles at 8:35 went pretty well, too.

I’m glad I listened to my body and got my running in instead of sleeping in. But I’m sure I’ll be singing a different tune if I can’t breathe next Saturday ;)

Do you exercise when you sick? How do you decide when it’s better to rest than workout?

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