Running with a Cold – 4 Signs You Should Stay Home

One of the toughest decisions you’ve ever had to make, your heart says run, but your nose is already doing that. Do you listen to your heart, go outside and get that run in, or do you stay inside or rest while your nose paints – tests on top of those tissues you’ve got next to your bed?

Well, I’m Jesse Funk and today on this episode of Runner’s High, I want to talk to you about running while you have a cold and four signs that it may be time to stay inside and rest. 

I’ll be the first to say, I’ve gone out and ran plenty of times I’ve had a cold. And that just means kind of runny nose, not really a whole lot going on besides that. And that’s been fine for me most times, but I also know the exact opposite side of that. And I remember a distinct time when my high school coach, I’d gone back to help coach with him. 

And he’d been sick, he’d been running with the kids and we were out on a meet. He’s running around the course like cross country coaches do. If you’ve ever been to meet, you know exactly what I’m talking about. And at one point, this is one of the toughest men I’ve ever met, sits down and he calmly says, I think I need to go to the hospital. Well, as it turned out, he pushed himself too hard, continuing to run while he’s sick, had to go to the ER, and ended up having pneumonia. 

So clearly, it isn’t as easy as saying, okay, I have a cold, so I can go run, it’s fine. There are times when we do need to rest. But what are some of the signs that we need to look out for in knowing we need to rest? And the first one is fever. This should be a no brainer, you have a fever, stay inside, it’s time to chill out and relax because your body needs all the resources it can to combat whatever’s going on with you. 

When you have a fever, your body is trying to almost forcibly get rid of bacteria, that bad stuff inside of you, by raising the temperature trying to kill it off just by raising your body temperature. Now, it’s also a signal that it needs to get extra white blood cells back to work and you know, working hard inside your bloodstream to get rid of that illness, whatever it is that’s going on inside of you. So, if you have a fever, absolutely should again be a no brainer, stay inside, chill, your body needs all the resources it can get to fight that illness, not to go for a run. 

The second sign that you should probably stay inside is if you have a chest cold. So, if you just have a cold, we say, okay, I have a cold, you have a cold, it’s really almost ambiguous at times what we’re talking about because people use that term for a lot of different symptoms. And it may not actually what’s happening, but we’re talking about having a chest cold, it means you know, there’s mucus here in our lungs, we’re coughing, there’s a lot going on there, and that’s the time definitely to rest. 

Now, a chest cold can actually be bronchitis, some form bronchitis, and what happens when you have bronchitis is your bronchial tubes are inflamed and full of mucus. What are bronchial tubes? Okay. So, basically, we can think about them as the connection between our mouth and airway to our lungs. They’re the space in between our lungs, that helps get the air in and out. It’s almost like that connecting route on the highway to get you to work, the air goes to work in your lungs, and then needs to get back home. 

So, it takes that side road through your bronchial tubes back out. Kind of a lame metaphor, but you get the point. It goes between the breathing in and getting to the lungs. And this should be somewhat axiomatic, you should say, okay, yeah, this makes sense, but you need those bronchial tubes to breathe. So, you’re going to need them to breathe while you’re running, which means that they need to be in good shape.

If you’re going to tax them even more by going out for a run, you can make your bronchitis worse, and end up with something more complicated, kind of like my coach did because he stressed himself too far. 

The third sign that you need to stay inside when you have a cold is if you have any kind of body aches. Often fever and body aches go together, but they don’t necessarily have to. Sometimes body aches are only a symptom of dehydration or stress. But they can also be symptoms of mana or pneumonia or more severe cold.

And they’re kind of a signal that something is really wrong with what’s going on with your body. And it means it’s time to rest. There’s something obviously affecting your body and it needs, again, all those resources to get rid of those things. 

I think it’s easy for us to forget that rest is actually a discipline that we need to pay attention to. And it’s easy to forget because when we’re out working out, we’re out running, we’re focused on how hard we’re going. It’s not so easy to be focused on okay, how easy am I taking it, you know, how relaxed am I?

How much energy am I conserving at this point in time? Because it’s the complete opposite of exertion, it’s so easy to be lazy to rest, but it’s very, very hard to work. So the way our brain works, it’s hard to pay attention at rest. But that rest as a discipline aside from your running is so so important for both illness recovery, and just long term running progression. 

The fourth thing to consider if you have cold and you’re thinking about running is, is it race day. This is kind of a split decision thing and isn’t necessarily internal to the body. If you’ve got any of those other three things going on, tt’s clearly a sit down, you’re not going to race because racing taxes you a lot.

But I’m going to share with you a piece of advice that my coach, Ryan Ross shared with me when I was presented with this situation recently. And he said, “Well, you know, what’s your motivation for the race? Are you at four out of 10 or are you nine or 10 out of 10?” How motivated am I to go and do this race? And that’s a first judgment. If your motivation is already low, then there’s really no point in risking any further escalation of what’s going on with you in that illness. 

The biggest thing to consider here is the fallout after the race, you know what’s going to happen after you get done running. If you haven’t caught anything I’m saying it’s basically, when you go run, or especially when you go race, you’re taxing your immune system more than it already has. Which means that it has the possibility of bringing that illness back even more than where it was, and your road to recovery becomes longer.

You have to remember when we work out, we do normal workouts and normal recovery, working up to 80-90% of our kind of athletic capacity, which is a good range to actually continue to progress. But ideally, on race day, we’re at 90 to 100% capacity, which is kind of the range where we’re tearing ourselves apart so much that it doesn’t actually benefit us. 

It’s the point where we’re really just there for ego gratification or want that time, we want to complete that race. I hope you have fun while you’re doing it, but there’s no positive benefits if you’re racing and really racing as far as health is concerned. If you read any kind of literature about should I run while I have a cold, which is maybe how you ended up here on this video.

There’s an awkward rule where it says anything above the neck is fine, anything below the neck stay inside. But thinking about that rule, there’s kind of something missing, and that’s what happens if it is your neck and you have a sore throat do you stay in or do you go out? 

Well subscribe to the channel because this is exactly what happened to me recently. And in my next video, I’m going to share with you what I decided and the outcome of that. So, stay tuned for the next episode of Runner’s High.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.