To Run or Not to Run: Dealing with Illness

illnessLately I’ve been sick.  The cold started in my head, moved to my sinuses, down to my throat, and lodged in my chest.  I hate being  sick and as a nurse I’m probably one of the worst patients to deal with. 

For a couple of weeks I continued my running and cross training schedule thinking I could just push past this.  On Saturday I was scheduled to run 10 miles and decided to only do 7 miles. 

I know, I wimped out. 

Two days later I was going to run 7 miles and instead went back to bed for an extra hour of sleep. My “push through it” approach wasn’t working and I needed to give myself an easy week and a chance to heal.   Looking back, it was the right decision. 

So, how do you know when you should you just “push through” the discomfort and stay with your schedule verses going back to bed for that extra sleep?

As I researched this topic I came across a good general rule. . .  

So here is the general rule for running with an illness like a cold or the flu. 

If your illness is above your throat and not accompanied by a fever then it is okay to run.  If the illness is at chest level or stomach level, or is accompanied by a fever then you should not run.  Obviously, you know your body the best and can make the best decision using COMMON SENSE.  Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Did you stay home from work or school today?  If yes, you are too sick to run.  If no, then you are probably good to go.
  • Do you have a fever?  Yes= don’t run, your body doesn’t need the added stress.
  • Are you having trouble breathing?  Yes= don’t run, you could worsen your chest congestion.
  • Are you nauseated or having gastrointestinal problems (cramping, diarrhea)?  Yes= don’t run, the movement could make it worse.
  • Are you dizzy or light headed?  Yes= don’t run, you don’t want to pass out during your session.
  • Do you honestly believe you should NOT run?  Remember, you are the best judge of your physical condition.  Maybe you should walk instead or go back to bed.
  • Has your doctor advised you not to run?  If yes, follow their advice.

The average adult has 2-3 upper respiratory infections every year.  Some factors that impair immune function include older age, cigarette smoking, stress, poor nutrition, fatigue, and lack of sleep.  However, consistant moderate exercise has been found to boost immunity.  Exercise circulates immune cells throughout the body more quickly to kill invading viruses and bacteria.

Tips to prevent illness:

  1. Eat a well-balanced diet
  2. Avoid rapid weight loss through fasting or low calorie diets
  3. Sleep 7-8 hours every night
  4. Avoid over-training and chronic fatigue
  5. Wash hands frequently
  6. Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth
  7. Get a yearly flu shot
  8. Drink plenty of water (at least 8 glasses per day)
  9. Exercise consistently
  10. Avoid alcohol and smoking
  11. Listen to your body

How did my week of easy exercise work?  I can definitely say that I feel better and have resumed  a light running schedule.  My cough is nearly gone and my energy level has improved.  As much as I hate getting off my schedule, sometimes it pays to give your body a break.

2 Responses to To Run or Not to Run: Dealing with Illness

  1. Darren April 26, 2011 at 7:01 am #

    Damn…sitting at work coughing alot and trying to look for a reason why I can still go out and run (pause to cough). Guide above says it all…. Don’t be stupid and rest yourself. Have a long way to go until the martahon in October.

    • Angie April 26, 2011 at 7:54 pm #

      Darren- it’s hard for me to wait out an illness too. Rest, drink lots of fluids, and try some chicken soup (nurse’s orders). Be patient and you’ll be back out there before you know it. Get better soon!

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