For the past few days I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather. Nothing serious, just a little respiratory infection, but the last thing I’ve felt like doing was going out for a run.
When my body asks for rest, I always listen – but with the Philly Half-Marathon coming up in a few weeks, I worry whether I just push through so I stay on my training schedule. And I know some of you worry about losing momentum in your fitness routine when you’re sidelined by illness, so I put together some “sick-day” guidelines to help us figure out whether we should go running or just crawl into bed and ride it out.
If you aren’t running a fever and don’t have full-blown flu, mild to moderate activity (such as a brisk walk, or light strength training) is probably OK. It might even help you feel better because exercise increases respiration which opens nasal passages and can relieve temporarily relieve congestion. However, it really depends on your specific symptoms:
- If you’re feeling tired but have no obvious symptoms, it’s OK to run – and you might find that once your body gets moving, your energy will return.
- If your symptoms are above the neck – i.e., runny nose, sneezing, minor sore throat – it should be OK to exercise. But consider dialing things back a notch from your usual intensity, or you may delay your healing time. Go for a walk instead, or cut down on your normal workout length.
- If your symptoms are below the neck, such as an upset stomach, chest congestion, or cough, or you just plain feel miserable, you should probably take it easy and get some rest to speed your recovery.
- If you have a fever or severe body aches, don’t exercise at all. Your body is sending a clear message that it needs time to heal.
- No matter whether you choose to work out or rest, drink plenty of fluids! This helps your immune system do its job and gets you back to 100% faster.
In my case, I had minor chest and sinus congestion (and I’m exhausted), so I spent some quality time with my bed and Season 3 of Homeland. The race is 19 days away, which means I can get my final long run in this weekend and still have 2 weeks to taper.
The bottom line is, listen to your body and if there is any question, check with your doctor. Remember, taking a short break from your exercise routine to recover from illness will not derail your efforts in the long run, and sickness can often be a sign that your body needs a break. As you begin to feel better, get back into your normal routine slowly and soon you’ll be right back at peak performance!