Running with a Cold – Should You Do It?
The best answer is no. The reasoning? Your body is using up a lot of energy to fight whatever bug you caught and it needs to conserve the energy in order to get you back to 100%.
If you go out running, your body has to split your energy resources between exercise and recovery. The worst case scenario is that you feel worse after your run, or that you recover much slower.
It may prove to be a challenge to stay indoors for too long and you may even have the urge to go for a run to make you feel better. If you absolutely can’t fight the need to get outside, consider doing the following first.
Complete a ‘Neck Check’
One common rule among runners is the ‘neck check’: if cold symptoms are above your neck, it’s probably safe to run. If the symptoms are below your neck, you’re better off resting and coming back stronger.
- Blocked nose, runny nose or sore throat? You’re good to run.
- Tight chest, high temperature or aching muscles? Don’t run and rest instead.
Running at the start of a cold is a good idea, since it can open up your airways and blast away the bug. You’ll also get that rush of endorphins from the fabled ‘runner’s high’.
But if you’re experiencing a tight chest or you have a fever, avoid running until your symptoms subside. Your cold could develop into a full-blown chest infection and you might be forced to stop running for even longer.
Once you decide to rest and recover, the best thing to do is accept it as one of those things and don’t stress about missing runs. You’ll feel better sooner if you take it easy and you’ll get back to peak performance in no time.
Tips for running with a cold
- Lower the intensity – go at a comfortable pace
- Stop your interval training as it puts your body under too much stress
- Cut the distance – now’s not the time to run long
- Turn off any GPS tracking devices so you’re not tempted to push yourself too hard
- Don’t run in a competitive group that will push you beyond your comfort zone
- Stay clear of races – you might need to pull out of any big ones coming up
Don’t forget to dress for the weather. As well as winter running gear like long tights and thermal base layers, be sure to add wearing a beanie hat, arm warmers and gloves.
How to avoid colds in the first place
Contrary to popular belief, running in the cold or in the rain won’t actually give you a cold. The only way you can catch a cold is by being exposed to the virus. But, the cold can indirectly cause you to get sick.
- If you’re holding the virus in your nose, the cold might cause it to develop
- If the bug is already in your system, the cold and wet might allow it to develop into an illness when your body would otherwise have fought it off
Running, of course, can help you avoid colds in the first place because:
- Runners are generally healthier and more likely to fight off illness
- Regular exercise boosts your immune system (but intense effort could lower your immunity while you recover)
- You can run to work and avoid public transport, which can be a hotbed of germs and viruses
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