When feeling unwell, it can be tricky to decide whether you should go for a run or not. Here we’ll look at the signs to watch out for and provide 5 helpful tips so that you can stay safe and healthy while running when sick.
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A few years ago, I had trained hard during the winter months for a February 10 Km race and then, I got a sinus infection. I was on the fence about whether I should keep training and running when sick just to make the race, or skip the race and get some rest.
Assess Your Symptoms—Don’t Self-Diagnose
The best way to decide whether or not to go for a run when you’re feeling unwell is to first assess your symptoms. Don’t try and self-diagnose, but instead pay attention to the kind of discomfort you’re feeling. Ask yourself questions such as: Does it hurt? Is it something ticking that can be worked out with some movement? Do I feel like running will make it worse? If so, it’s probably time to rest.
I also like the following tip: The neck check. Here’s how it works, if your illness is above the neck, you are OK to run, if it’s below the neck, you should rest.
Know the Difference Between a Cold and the Flu
One of the most important things to consider when deciding whether you should go for a run or not is knowing the difference between a cold and the flu. Colds are usually milder and can be treated with rest and over-the-counter medication. But if your symptoms include severe shortness of breath, chest pain and fever, it’s better to stay put as this could be a sign of the flu. If you’re in doubt, always speak to your physician.
If Running When Sick, Replace Lost Electrolytes with Sports Drinks or Supplements
If you decide to go for a run while sick, it’s important to replace lost electrolytes like iron, sodium, magnesium, and potassium. This can be done by drinking sports drinks or taking supplements like electrolyte tablets purchased from your local pharmacy.
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Keep Track of Your Sleep, Diet, and Hydration Habits
In order to decide whether or not it’s okay to keep running while you are sick, it is important to monitor your sleep, diet and hydration habits. Try to stick with healthy sleep, diet and hydration habits such as eating properly balanced meals and getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after runs. If you find that you are still feeling unwell after a few days of this lifestyle change, don’t try to power through. Stay home and rest until you start feeling better instead.
Listen to Your Body—If You Don’t Feel Well, Don’t Run When Sick
Listen to the signs that your body is sending you—if you feel exhausted, have an upset stomach or have a sore throat, it may be best to skip your run entirely and focus on getting better. If you don’t feel too bad but think running might help you manage your illness slightly better, consider scaling back on intensity and distance. Don’t push yourself too hard!
Well, in the case of the 10 Km race mentioned above, I decided that my sinus infection wasn’t too serious just unpleasant and pushed through the race and ended up with a decent race time. Also, that run was in -20C weather, so my sinus was not my only problem. Yikes!
For all my runner friends out there, do you push through with your training when you are sick? Do you have any remedies you use to speed up the process? Personally, I’m a “let nature take its course” kind of gal!
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