So, it’s early Saturday morning, the weather is clear and cool, and I was all set to run 12 miles with a friend. Sadly, that won’t be happening. Damn the germs! I’m just too sick for a long run to benefit me in any way today. How did I make this decision? Well, lets just say there were times in the past when I ran, too sick, and it just didn’t…go well. A few times it went very, very, wrong. So I’ll tell you what I’ve noticed to be signs that you just might be to sick to run. Keep in mind I’m not a doctor so these reasons are not based in actual medicine, just my two cents about the subject from a purely practical perspective. That’s not to say you shouldn’t take this advice. Because it’s probably not really even advice as the general, sane, non-running population would see it. No it’s probably just blatent common sense if there is any. But like me, you just might need to hear this sh#t again, and again, the next time you’re thinking of getting that run in despite all evidence that you need to stay the f!#@ in bed. So there.
1. You stumble to the bathroom in the morning sweating and coughing. These are things that might happen to someone who’s already ran 20 miles, and, seriously, if you wake up sweating when it’s not hot you might want to look into it. Even if you don’t have a full on fever, your body tempurature might be elevated enough where running a long distance would put you at risk for dehydration. Plus if you’re coughing already (especially if “stuff” is being coughed up) that’s a definite “below the neck” sign that running won’t help. The combination of these 2 is a sure sign to postpone the run.
2. You are so fatigued you are dreading walking up and down your stairs. While not actually a symptom, this is common sense. If you can’t bear the thought of another trip up the stairs your body is telling you it also probably isn’t up for a 10 or more mile run. The added stress of that run on an already stressed and fatigued system can’t help your fitness in any positive way. Too sick.
3. You are sick enough to back out of other activities. Runners can be interesting. Yes, you might be sick enough to cancel out on social plans but you still think you can do a 12 miler? Think again. You are telling yourself you might be too sick to run if you realize you probably shouldn’t be gracing your friends with your illness, or you are clearly not feeling well enough to socialize. I know this sounds weird but I have been known, in the past, to do a 10 miler on a “sick day.” Maybe I’m the only weird one.
4. It hurts when you cough. If you have a painful cough it doesn’t make sense to run. Running is a whole lot of breathing and you’ll likely be coughing the whole run and in pain. You might even give yourself bronchitis or pneumonia and those 2 things will put you even further off your training plan. At least wait until the cough doesn’t actually HURT anymore.
5.You’ve had symptoms of a stomach bug in the last 24 hours. I’ve run with stomach bugs. In fact my whole family had a week long stomach bug this past winter and I ran almost every day I had it (was training for Boston), then did a 15k at the end of the week with Immodium to back me up. I can’t say I recommend this though. For pretty obvious reasons, running and stomach problems don’t get along so well, so spare yourself the horror stories and wait.
6. You have symptoms of a sinus infection. I don’t mean just a stuffy nose, because running can help with that. I mean the congestion along with pain, possible dizziness and nausea, possibly a fever, maybe some “colorful nasal discharge.” Even though the symptoms are mainly above your neck (well not the fever and nausea but the other ones) you will be so miserable trying to do a long run this way it’s just not worth it. Plus, if your body really is fighting a more serious infection it will not be able to gain any benefits from any training you do. And you might just risk hurting yourself. Take care of your sinuses and then schedule your run.
7. You have body aches and/or chills. This is a blatantly obvious symptom if there is one, and definitely follows the below-the-neck rule. Body aches and chills are both signs that your body is fighting a more serious infection and you need to shut down and let it do its job to heal. Putting extra stress on it now won’t help anything. Even if you are temporarily less achy while moving around, running is not a good idea.
8. You are feeling the FIRST SIGNS of illness. This is a hard one for me, because normally at the initial signs of an illness I don’t feel that bad. The symptoms are something I can easily brush off and not a reason to slow down. You might feel the same. But, when you overstress your system at the beginning of an illness, you just might make the full intensity and duration of the illness worse. I’ve heard this a million times, and yet I will always go for a run when I’m just starting out with a cold, most likely making it worse until I have no choice but to stop running. So I’ll leave this one up to you. If you have success with it, let me know!
Now, 3 signs you might be a little sick but should still probably run
1. Your nose is really stuffed and you might have a mild headache but otherwise feel normal. Please run, and if you’re into things like manners and cleanliness (I’m not really) make sure to bring tissues.
2. You are signed up for a non-refundable race and you have something less than the flu. Call me cheap and stupid, but paying money is always a reason for me to run despite an illness. But don’t listen to me because I’m cheap, stubborn, and stupid.
3. You’ve taken a couple of days off and are not totally better but have energy to burn. This is me like as of right now. No chance I’m running today but you can bet I’ll be out tomorrow at 5:30 for a slow 10 miles. After a couple of days of rest, I know that I’ll benefit from getting out there even if it’s purely psychological. No need to get too comfortable with this rest thing, you know?
Have you had any bad experiences trying to run through an illness?