Should I run when I'm sick?
**DISCLAIMER- I talk a lot about running, followed closely by biking and swimming, because that's my passion. This article still pertains to any strenuous exercise. If you play a hard game of hockey, or get to the gym to strength train for rowing, whatever, you should still apply the same rules as runners do**
My nose is both running and clogged. I wake up in the morning and my everything feels miserable. I have a slight dry irritated cough but no chest congestion. Naturally, I head out to my 15 km run...right? Well if you're me, you miss as few days of training as you deem humanly possible and you lace up and run like the wind. It did leave me thinking though; am I doing more harm than good?
Well most research would actually agree with me on this one. Given my symptoms, it's not a terrible idea to keep to my training regime and go for my run. Studies such as the one done at Ball State University by Tom Weidner, Ph.D. looked at exactly that. Dr. Weidner took 60 runners and intentionally infected them with the common cold. Sounds like a great guy :) Half of them completed 30-40 minutes of exercise while the other half...I don't know, watched Netflix. The thing was that there was no difference in the length of time each group suffered. And even better, the runners with colds experienced no negative effects to their performance. Dr. Weidner even suggested that the runs helped them keep their training up and were beneficial to the psychology of the run group.
General rule is "it's all relative to the neck". If your symptoms are above your neck (sniffles, sneezing, running nose, feeling tired) head out for your run. If they are below your neck (wet chest cough, body aches, sore throat) it's time to wait for the symptoms to subside.
There is always exceptions to the rules and the fever has this one. If you have a fever your body is screaming at you to lay down. By increasing your body's core temperature your physiology is attempting to create an inhospitable environment for the virus. Basically trying to kick out the unwanted guest. When you exercise you increase your core temperature which in itself can be dangerous if you started off higher then normal. Secondary to that, your body's attempt at thermoregulation will vasodialate (open up big) the vasculature in your arms and legs. Again, all in an attempt to decrease the core temperature. It's your hearts job to pump that blood around to try and cool off. If you have a fever the heart over works and this could lead to damage.
Last big bad bug that can shut down your exercise plans; sinusitis. This is one that gets a lot of people in the winter but running with a sinus infection can lead to respiratory infections and potentially pneumonia. Most of the time you don't feel up to the run when your face feels like it could blow apart at any time anyways.
Last thing to remember is that for runners there appears to be a threshold for the connection between running and getting sick. David Nieman, Ph.D., of the Human Performance Laboratory at Appalachian State University says you are 6 times more likely to get an upper respiratory infection after a marathon. You are also twice as likely to catch these bugs any time if you run more than 60 miles per week.
Now, massage therapy can't help you fight off the common cold but I can help when your everything hurts from coughing and laying in bed all day :)
Marathon training during cold and flu season...
Substantially more likely to get sick, often....
Bring it on :)