Running Sick

It has been a bumpy end to winter in my household. Between sinusitis and pneumonia, we’ve consumed our fair share of antibiotics. As if the lingering cold weather isn’t enough, fighting to train through an illness is a challenge!

What are the implications of running while sick?

Many studies indicate that running through mild colds and illnesses can boost immunity. A lot of runners subscribe to the “above the neck” theory, and consider running with symptoms above the chest and stomach is acceptable. While this is not validated in medical research, many runners still practice this. It’s important to remember that a little stress is good, but too much stress is detrimental. During exercise, the body produces two hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, that raise blood pressure, elevate cholesterol levels, and temporarily weaken the immune system, but then make it stronger post-activity. Expert tip: Listen to your body! If you cannot go, don’t go. If you can, do what you can. Don’t push it!

Some Antibiotics (fluoroquinolones, commonly known by their prescription names—Cipro, Levaquin, and Avelox) can put you at increased risk for tendon rupture. Exercise caution when taking these medications. Expert tip: Ask your doctor or PT if your drugs fall under this category. If so, take it very easy. No speed, no hills, no jumping!

Over the counter anti-histamines (such as Sudafed) should be used with caution. Be aware that these medications may cause dizziness, sleepiness, or lightheadedness. 

Expert tip: They can also increase blood pressure, so this is a consideration for some.

During healing time, your body needs all its resources to fight off infections and viruses. Studies have shown that recovery and sleep is just as important as hard workouts. Expert tip: Your energy should first be committed to healing, and then be committed to exercise. 

The bottom line: Take it easy while continuing to train while sick. Although exercise is good, it is also stressful on the body, and training to soon may prolong recovery. Consider your running goals for the year, and consider setting aside a short-term goal for a week or two, to be able to achieve your long term goals. Remember: running isn’t going anywhere… and the quicker you recover, the quicker you can get back out there!