My Sunday am run this week was solidly in the middle of a cold. I’m not a doctor, and I don’t play one on tv either. However, over time I’ve developed a few rules of thumb for deciding whether or not to head out the door with a cold. Fortunately, this only seems to happen once or twice a year. But it is that time of year!
I considered making a flowchart, but that would imply some superior knowledge or wit, or both. Here are my basic rules for exercising while sick. They basically boil down to “do I feel like it?” I think being honest with yourself and your body is always the best way of making these decisions.
1) Fever? Feverish? (low grade or just suspected). Stay in bed.
2) Productive cough? Bed.
3) Nausea/vomiting? Do you have to ask? I don’t know too many people who would ignore that one.
Those are the no-gos. I do consider a run with any of these:
1) Runny/snuffy nose. This can get pretty gross, but I feel better during and afterwards. No communal activities here though – you’re going to see those people at the gym again whether or not you know their names. You don’t want to be that guy/girl. Eww.
2) Headache. If it’s part of an overall thing – e.g. sinus-related, I find physical activity helps me here, so despite feeling lousy I’ll give it a try.
3) Fatigue. Again – listen to your body. If it’s because you’re not getting enough rest – do yourself a favor and get some. However, at the tail end of a cold or something minor, it’s easy to keep holding on to the “I’m sick” or “I’ve been sick” or “I was sick last week” as an excuse. If I’m pretty sure I’m over it, I try to get back out there.
Training while you’re sick isn’t much fun. If you’re not too sick I think it gives you a temporary boost. I felt good during my Sunday am run. That wore off later in the day, but I wouldn’t say it was a setback. The trick is not being so much of a slave to a training schedule that you wind up having to shut down for a while because you didn’t let your body fight off whatever you’re dealing with; and also not using it as so much of an excuse that you find you’ve gone two weeks without doing much of anything!