Should You Run When You’re Ill?

Sometimes it can be hard to know if you should run or simply let an illness run its course. Our resident GP, Juliet McGrattan, has the diagnosis

Should You Run When You're Ill?

Whether you’re following a training schedule for a race or are just motivated to run regularly, it can be very frustrating when you get ill. You don’t want to miss your run but neither do you want to make things worse and risk putting yourself out of action for longer. The right thing to do is not always obvious, so here’s a guide to keep you well and get you back on your feet as quickly as possible.

SIMPLE COLD

OK to run: Your nose is a bit runny or stuffed up and you have a mild headache or a slight sore throat. All your symptoms are above your neck.

Miss your run: Your nose is streaming, you have a high temperature, you feel shivery, your joints or muscles ache and you need regular paracetamol.

COUGH

OK to run: Your cough is dry and tickly, and the irritation is in your throat. You don’t have a temperature and are only coughing occasionally.

Miss your run: Your cough feels like it’s coming from your chest and is producing phlegm. You feel short of breath or wheezy. You have a temperature.

SORE THROAT

OK to run: Your throat feels dry and a bit scratchy, but it isn’t too painful to swallow and you otherwise feel fine.

Miss your run: You have a temperature or feel shivery. Your glands are swollen, making your neck feel stiff. It hurts a lot to swallow.

Should You Run When You're Ill?

SINUS INFECTION

OK to run: Your sinuses feel mildly congested and a bit tender but you feel fine otherwise and you can breathe easily.

Miss your run: You feel lightheaded or dizzy. You have a temperature or feel shivery. Your face or teeth are hurting.

DIARRHOEA

OK to run: You have just had one or two small bouts of loose stools and you don’t feel that there’ll be more. You don’t feel sick or have tummy pain, you’ve drunk plenty of fluids and have had something to eat.

Miss your run: You’re getting stomach cramps and know there is more diarrhoea to come. You feel sick or have vomited, have a temperature, haven’t eaten and you’re a bit dehydrated.

URINARY INFECTION

OK to run: It’s a bit uncomfortable when you pass urine and you are doing so a bit more often than usual, but you feel well and don’t have a tummy ache or a temperature.

Miss your run: You feel shivery, have a tummy ache, lower back pain or feel sick. It’s stings when you pass urine or there is blood in your wee.

Should You Run When You're Ill?

THE FLU

OK to run: Never

Miss your run: With true flu you’ll struggle to get out of bed, let alone run and you shouldn’t even consider exercising. Don’t attempt a run until you feel fully recovered and can cope easily with your normal daily life.

Why shouldn’t you run?

When you fit into any of the ‘miss your run’ categories, it’s important that you rest and take it easy. Your immune system is working hard to fight the infection that has struck you down. Putting extra strain on your body by running can reduce your immune response and make you worse, as well as hampering your recovery.

When you think you’re OK to run, go out with an “I’ll see how I get on’ attitude.” Start slowly and take it easy. Stay hydrated. Don’t aim for a PB, hill session or threshold run. If you do feel OK as time goes on you can step things up a little, but be sensible.


Jenny Bozon

Written by Jenny Bozon | 297 articles | View profile

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