Should I run when I am sick? - DOC

Should I run when I am sick?

Today on the Doc On The Run podcast, we’re talking about whether or not you should run when you are sick.

For the past week I have been sick. I have had a fever, I have has a cough, chills, a sore throat, some kind of sinus infection, poor sleep and a serious lack of appetite.

It’s cold and flu season and one question that comes up this time of year is, “Should I run when I am sick?” 

The obvious concern is that if you have a training schedule and marathon on the calendar your fitness will suffer. You don’t want to lose ground. 

This is a valid concern. If you stop, it can wreck your training. 

But you have to understand something that seems to get lost on most sick runners in training.  

Not running when sick isn’t nearly as bad as not running when injured. 

With that said, there have been lots of different proposed guidelines to help you decide if you can when when you feel sick, have a cold or the flu.  

Okay if the cold only in your head.

Okay if the cold only last 3 days.

Okay if you don’t have body aches. 

Okay if you don’t have a fever.

Okay if the cold isn’t in your chest.  

I am not going to comment or give an opinion on any of the above…its not my area of expertise.

My area of specialization is helping injured runners run in a way that decrease stress on the injured tissue enough that you can continue to heal. 

But with that in mind will tell you how I think about running and training when you are sick.  

If you get a mild injury and wear a fracture walking boot for a few days, that may wipe out the injury, calm it down and allow you to get back to training in only a couple of days. Not wearing a boot and just decreasing your activity may keep you out of action for much much longer. 

If I have a fever, feel sick, I feel exhausted, I know I am sleep deprived, I feel sleep deprived, I know I am at risk of injury.  

My immune system is just not in a position to rebuild the tissue damage that comes a consequence of a hard run or regimented training.  

When you are sick, the doctor always tells you to push the fluids. When we are sick, we have a cough or a runny nose we can get a mild form of dehydration. Training in a dehydrated state can contribute to your risk of getting an overtraining injury.   

When we are sick, our appetite often suffers. If I am undernourished, I have not had a good appetite, and as a consequence, I have not been eating well, then it just stands to reason my body will lack the nutrients needed to rebuild the tissue damage that comes of a normal consequence of running and training.  

So what does this mean and what do I do?  

If I am sick, sleep deprived, dehydrated, or run down. I am not going to run.  

If I am sick and run down, I will focus on workouts (if you want to call them  a workout) that include stretching or “flexibility trying.”   

I do not add work for my immune system.  

You cannot expect you body to cure the cold, clear the cough, get rid of the sinus infection AND recovery form a hard workout or a long run.  

Yesterday morning, I ran one mile. 

1 mile is not a workout.  

But I want to heal and get over this cold as quickly as possible. 

Focus on the healing, recovering and getting better first. 

Then run.  


If you have a question that you would like answered as a future addition of the Doc On The Run Podcast, send it to me And then make sure you join me for the next edition of the Doc On The Run Podcast!