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Hack, Cough: Should You Run With A Cold?

Posted Dec 09 2008 11:15pm
Should You Run With A Cold

Sometimes life doesn't seem fair. What other explanation is there for why you, the runner, have a stuffed up nose and sore throat while your office mate-whose idea of daily exercise is to walk to the candy machine and back-sits across from you yapping away on the phone in perfect health?

There's no point in being bitter. Just get better. When faced with cold-like symptoms, runners typically have one of two reactions. The first is to go fetal, curling up in bed with a throat lozenge and a good book, waiting for the misery to pass. (For the record, this is my reaction of choice.) The second reaction comes from runners who insist the only way to defeat a cold is to lace up your shoes, hit the road, and "sweat it out."

Which option is best? Let's find out.

Neck Check

If you're unsure if you're healthy enough for a run, engage in the neck check. If your symptoms are all above the neck-sniffling, sneezing, stuffy nose-you're probably okay to run. If symptoms run the other way-chest pains, aches, chills, diarrhea, vomiting-it's best to stay indoors and take it easy. And it's never a good idea to run with a fever.

Don't Be A Superhero

Take a look back at your schedule and see if perhaps you got sick due to a bump-up in training intensity.

If you do chose to go running, take it easy. You don't want to push a minor respiratory infection into something more serious. Adrenaline is a natural decongestant. Your stuffed nasal passages may actually open while running, making you feel healthier than you really are. But a cold indicates your immune system is already weakened. Take a look back at your schedule and see if perhaps you got sick due to a bump-up in training intensity or mileage. An increase in training volume often means a more vulnerable immune system-so you might catch colds more often the typical couch potato. (Again, with the unfairness)

Down Time

Runners have a flair for the dramatic. Why else would we run 26.2? But that same drive often translates into fretting about losing conditioning while in bed. Be reasonable. Three days inside is not going to derail three months worth of training. The human body is quick to bounce back to pre-cold condition. Ease back into your training with a few easy runs and you’ll soon be right back where you left off.

Tips for a Speedy Recovery

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Gargle with warm water
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Take zinc lozenges at the first sign of sickness
  • Make sure you're taking a multi-vitamin
  • Sleep with a humidifier in your bedroom at night
  • Some runners swear by Echinacea (but there's no solid proof it boosts the immune system)
  • Pay attention to your body. It will tell you when it needs rest.
  • Stay positive. A healthy attitude is right up there with Mom's chicken soup for common sense cures for the common cold.
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