I’m Sick — Should I Run?

Should I Work Out When I'm Sick?

It’s nearly September 1st (what, when did that happen?!), and I’ve been sick on and off since late July…which sucks. Basically, my sinuses and I are at war, and I keep losing battle after battle. I started a third round of antibiotics today in hopes that it will kill the infection that seems to refuse to die on top of some chronic nasal inflammations and narrow nasal passageways. If that doesn’t work, I’m looking at having a balloon stuck up my nose to get all the gook out. Sweet.

But, um, I’m also training for a marathon, so I’ve had a lot of should-I-or-shouldn’t-I internal debate lately.

But conventional running wisdom says you’re good to run if it’s not in your chest. The closest this has gotten to my chest has been a mild hacking cough, so theoretically I should be OK to run, right?

When I have a race date on my calendar hanging over my head and I’m feeling under the weather, I do a lot of weighing things out:

  • Do I even have the energy to do this? Sometimes this is a no-brainer. Two weeks ago, I spent most of the week in bed. Walking hurt my face, so running was 1 million percent out of the question. But a few weeks ago, when I was starting to get sick, I made a judgment call that might not have been the right one. My throat hurt AND my energy was super low, but I hoped it would make me feel better. It didn’t, and it won’t always.
  • How will this affect my training if I don’t? The long run is the most important run of marathon training, so if I’m feeling sick during the week, I try to conserve energy for my longest run, since I’d rather miss a 4-5 miler than a 10 miler.
  • When do I fold ’em? I don’t want to be a quitter, but I also don’t want to prolong any sickness. Things I know I shouldn’t do include: running in extreme heat because it saps more energy than I realistically have when sick (oh hi Sunday, I’m looking at you), running when my throat hurts (this one may be personal, but it never helps me to run when it hurts). Personally, these are things that may prolong illness for me, which will keep me away from training even longer than missing this one run might.
  • How close is the race? This isn’t currently my concern — though it was the week before SeaWheeze (when I ended up being too sick anyway, which is neither here nor there.) If your race is really soon and you’re doubtful about whether to run or not, DON’T.

tl;dr: You need to listen to your body. While I am thinking of all of the above things, and yes, sometimes email my coach for justification/validation of my decisions, I usually know deep down when I should and shouldn’t run, and I bet you do, too. I’ve found spin is usually my ideal workout when I’m getting over something — doesn’t require much balance, and doesn’t invert my clogged head at all the way lifting or yoga might if I’m not feeling up to running yet.

One comment on “I’m Sick — Should I Run?

  1. Gianna @ Run, Lift, Repeat

    Oh I so struggle with this. After a couple weeks being on the road for work I woke up the day I was leaving for Europe earlier this month feeling a cold in the works. What did I do – pushed through several miles. I then had an overnight flight to Croatia and lets just say I spent the next 8 days of my vacation feeling relatively crappy…and still pushing myself with lots of activity. Had I scaled back I am sure I would have gotten over it sooner but am my own worst enemy. I came back from a run one day coughing and my skipper was like…maybe you shouldn’t be running (smart man) I hope that you get some relief soon because being sick is the worst!


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