Running with a cold: what you need to know

Running with a cold is a topic discussed by many. Should I run? Should I rest? Here’s what you need to know.

Your training is going great, you’re three weeks out from race day and boom, you feel a cold coming along. What should you do? Should you run? Should you rest? This article will discuss everything you need to know about running with a cold. The best way to determine whether or not to run is the neck check…

The neck check

The ‘neck check’ is common jargon in the sports medicine world. This refers to upper respiratory infection (URI) and lower infection, below the neck.

Generally, if your only symptoms are a cough, runny nose or a sore throat, you’re all clear to run. This is an upper respiratory infection. However, if you’re experiencing a lower infection with symptoms such as a tight chest, aching muscles (not from working out), or a high temperature then you should most likely be sitting this one out.

I’ve completed a neck check, but I still want to run

Running towards the beginning of a cold can actually open up our airways and speed up the entire process of fighting off the cold.

It is, however, advised to rest, especially once your cold has developed. When you have a cold the body uses up a significant portion of its energy to fight the cold, leaving little energy left for physical activity and running.

If you do opt to run, our energy is split between fighting off the cold and powering our run. This will often result in us running slower, feeling tired more easily, and feeling much worse after completing our run.

Is running good for fighting colds?

As mentioned previously, running can actually harness the power to speed up the process of fighting a cold. This is only recommended towards the beginning of a cold, and only above the neck. Running with a tight chest or achy muscles may actually lead to the development of a chest infection. In this situation, it’s best to rest.

Will running make my cold worse?

An article from everydayhealth suggests that moderate exercise will not make your symptoms worse while it may not shorten them too. Remaining well hydrated while running with a cold may actually help break up the congestion. Making us feel better in the short term. Your cold may become worse, however, if exercising or running while not adequately hydrated or worse dehydrated.

Tips for running with a cold

If you just can’t help yourself and must pound the pavement, we’ve gathered together some top tips to stay safe while making the most out of your run.

1.     Leave the watch at home

While running with a cold, we recommend leaving the watch at home and running at a more relaxed and comfortable pace. Tracking your pace will likely tempt you to increase the pace and push yourself when you really shouldn’t. Running too hard with a cold will may leave you feeling more fatigued and even worse even hours after completing your run.

2.    Decrease the intensity

No matter your scheduled session, the most you want to do when running with a cold is a maximum of thirty easy minutes. This means skipping the tempo run, long-run, interval session or fartlek and opting for a gentle jog.

3. Don’t feel guilty for skipping a session

Just because you’ve skipped a session does not mean you should feel guilty. Skipping your regular session and replacing it with an easy run at a conversational pace will actually leave you feeling better and ready to run at a higher intensity much sooner. For now, ease back the intensity and enjoy being out the door.

4.    Say NO to racing

You may be able to run; however, you definitely shouldn’t race. Just like skipping intense sessions or workouts, you should say NO to a race. Try rescheduling to a similar race or distance if this is what you’ve been training for.

If you do race, however, don’t be hung up on time. Instead, be proud that you even finished. And even if you don’t finish, it’s no big deal. You shouldn’t be out of bed, never mind running a race. Running with a cold is a whole lot more demanding than racing while not ill, remember this to prevent that post-race devastation.

What to wear when running with a cold

If choosing to run with a cold, ensure to wrap up warm yet cool enough not to overheat. Generally, you can dress for the weather as you usually would. However, be sure to remain aware of your temperature while making any necessary adjustments.

How to avoid picking up a cold

To avoid asking yourself the question in the first place of whether or not you’re able to run, it’s best to stay up to date on how to avoid one yourself. A previous article by the likes of Stephanie Silk mentions various ways to avoid picking up a cold while keeping you running happy and healthy. These include:

  1. Washing your hands as frequently as possible, especially after using the toilet
  2. Make sure to get the recommended 8-10 hours of sleep per night
  3. Keep your distance from sick people
  4. Eat enough fruits and vegetables
  5. Workout regularly

The bottom line

The neck check is a great way to determine whether or not you should be running. If your only symptoms include a blocked nose, sore throat, and a cough, chances are you’re safe and able to run. In fact, running while developing a cold may speed up the process, clear your airways, and fast track you to being fully recovered.

In the end, however, you must weigh up whether or not running is worth it. Skipping a session and spending the day in bed will help you recover faster, allow you to feel better, and have returning to training and running much sooner.

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