Reader To Reader: Help, I've Got A Cold!

Should you run if you've got the sniffles? Here's what you thought...


Posted: 29 October 2006
by Jane Hoskyn


"How soon should I run after I've had a cold? I've always been sporty, but I've only been running seriously for a few months. In the past when I've had colds and coughs, I've often gone back to sport as soon as I've been able to breathe properly again, but I've heard that you shouldn't return to running until you're fully fit. I know this isn't exactly the most pressing health issue in running, but, as a newbie to the sport, I want to do it right. I'm also hopelessly addicted and don't want to be off for longer than I need to! What do people suggest?"
Rachel Chan

Your best answers...

  • Chest cold = No way Jose!
    Blocked nostrils = Generally OK
    Fever = Have done it, but it makes things worse.
    When a cold is 'bubbling under', hard training always makes sure it breaks out big style. – Welsh Alex
  • I quite often find that if I exercise, even at a lower pace/intensity, then I feel a lot better for it. At the end of the day, listen to your body and do what you feel is right. Carry on enjoying the running! – Kazzah
  • If you have a temperature, your cold is likely to be viral and you have an active viremia. In which case, don't run. If you don't have a temperature, run. If it's on your chest, you can run if there's no wheeze or shortness of breath, or pain when you cough and breathe – if there are any of those symptoms, do not run. The risks of running with a viremia are long term fatigue or cardiac complications that may atop you running for months; the complications of running with bronchospasm or pluerisy or pnuemothorax are even worse. Remember, a week off will not lessen your conditioning. A stich in time still can save nine. – cabletow
  • My physio recently told me that when we have colds or chest infections, our bodies release a hormone like 'relaxin' in pregnancy, which relaxes the pelvic muscles. So you are more inclined to suffer pelvic instability and injury. It's worth waiting and allowing your body to heal before continuing. – Sophie Moss
  • Running with any kind of viral infection is a very bad idea indeed, and can mean that you end up out of action for months. Having said that, I also think that it's really important to listen to what your body tells you. If you feel like running, go for it, but keep it gentle. You will soon know if it's a bad idea! – vixter
  • Feverish or chesty: do not r*n. Otherwise it's up to how you feel. Getting some fresh air usually helps the breathing and lifts your mood. I have r*n when a bit bronchial, following a cold, but it is not something I would advise anyone else to do. Fluid can build up in the lungs, and that can kill you. (I take my own risks, based on experience or pigheadedness...) – Big David
  • When I'm recovering from a cold I always try a brisk walk. If I feel OK, I progress onto very easy jog. Any problems, stop and wait a day before trying again! Also, I generally wear extra layers of clothing when I've been feeling rough. I was told it's important to keep warm after a cold – can't remember why, though! – Simon Richards
  • Running with flu can kill. There were several deaths a while back. International standard Swedish orienteers and some cyclists, if I recall. That said, I like to keep active if at all possible with some gentle running. It also helps 'clear the passages', although last night I bit off too much, trying to keep up with the fast lads on a club fartlek session whilst still feeling chesty. Whatever you do, think about how you feel and don't be tempted to push too hard. Be prepared to cut your session down if you are feeling rough – so plan a route that allows you to bail early! – Expat Scot
  • I don't believe you will lose any significant training effect by resting completely until your cold is over. Training is a stress like a cold, and the combination means your body has to cope with two major stressors. A few days off training shouldn't make any long term difference to your aims, but the risk of continuing is to be run down for up to several weeks. Stress & recovery = improvment. – Robman
  • If you run when you have a cold, you will make it worse. Don't do it. – Kenneth Berry
  • If I'm feeling a little under the weather, I find getting out for a gentle run helps. I pay close attention to my heart rate, keep the effort EASY, and run for 30-35 minutes max. It may be psychological, but I'm sure the lift my mood gets from this helps with recovery. Much better than staying indoors and feeling miserable for not training. Anything on the chest at all, DON'T RUN! – XL-man
  • Ah, glad this came up. Mini Tweety has just given me her cold – my first one in ages. I like the idea of going out for a walk in the fresh air and possibly breaking into a jog, and I'll probably be trying it tomorrow morning. – tweetywhoateallthepies?


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Hi all,

Im a newie here. I love the website and the forum, and as someone new to running, ive learnt loads here already!

I have a question of my own tho - how soon should i run after ive had a cold?

Ive always been sporty, done loads of aerobics and cycling. But ive only been running seriously since April this year. My longest run so far has been 1hour5mins (distance probably not very far as im not very fast at the moment)!

Anyway, in the past when ive had colds and coughs ive often gone back to sport as soon as ive been able to breath properly again! But ive read a lot of articles and posts recently that say you shouldnt return to running until you're fully fit.

I know this isnt exactly the most pressing health issue in running, but as a newie to the sport, i want to do it right. Im also hopelessly addicted and dont want to be off for longer than i need to. But on the other hand, i dont want to go back to running before im fully fit and end up relapsing. Its no fun running with a snotty nose.

What do people suggest??
Posted: 14/07/2006 at 21:12

Hi Rachel, I was told years ago that if it's a head cold then it's ok to exercise but if it's a chest cold then don't. I quite often find that if I exercise - even if it's at a lower pace/intensity - then I feel a lot better for it. At the end of the day, listen to your body and do what you feel is right.

Carry on enjoying the running!! ;o)
Posted: 14/07/2006 at 22:11

If you have a temperature, it is likely to be viral and you have an active viremia, dont run. If you dont have a temperature run.

If it is on your chest you can run if sputum is clear, there is no wheeze or shortness of breath or pain when you cough and breathe. if there are any of those symptoms do not run.

The risks of running with a viremia are long term fatigue or cardiac complications that may atop you running for months. The complications of running with bronchospasm or pluerisy or pnuemothorax are even worse.

REmember a week off will not lessen your conditioning and a stich in time still can save 9
Posted: 15/07/2006 at 11:31

amen to the flippin pneumothorax..........bad bad bad bad
Posted: 15/07/2006 at 13:58

Hi guys,

Thanks for your replies.

Kazzah, you make much sense about not running if its a chest cold.

Cabletow, what a reply! Yes, want to avoid that pnuemothorax at all costs! Thank you for your very detailed comments. I suppose its just reassuring, at the very least, to see that all i did have was a little cold, and not any of those nasty things you described. Time to stop being a wuss and get back out there!

Now ive knocked over the cold, lets see how i go running in this heat!
Posted: 17/07/2006 at 14:04

Oh, by the way, me and 'Rachel Chan' are the same person. Changed my profile name recently...didnt fancy it being my full name.
Posted: 17/07/2006 at 14:05

Hi Rachel,
My physio recently told me that when we have colds/chest infections it releases a hormone like 'Relaxin' does in pregnancy, which relaxes the pelvic muscles. Thus you are more inclined to pelvic instability and injury. It's worth the wait by allowing your body to heal before continuuing.

Sophie
Posted: 27/10/2006 at 04:32

def agree with cabletow, running with any kind of viral infection is a very bad idea indeed, and can mean that you end up out of action for months. Having said that I also think that its really important to listen to what your body tells you and if you feel like running go for it but keep it gentle, you will soon know if its a bad idea!
Posted: 27/10/2006 at 04:49

Rachel
Feverish or chesty do not r*n.

Otherwise it's up to how you feel, but getting some fresh air usually helps the breathing and lifts your mood.

I have r*n when a bit bronchial, following a cold, but it is not something I would advise anyone else to do, as fluid can build up in the lungs, and that can kill you. (I take my own risks, based on experience or pigheadedness)
Posted: 27/10/2006 at 10:54

When I am recovering from a cold I always try a brisk walk and if I feel OK progress onto very easy jog. Any problems then stop and wait a day before trying again!

The other thing is I generally wear extra layers of clothing. I was told it's important to keep warm after a cold - can't remember why though!
Posted: 27/10/2006 at 11:45

Running with flu can kill. Several deaths a while back (International standard Swedish orienteers and some cyclists, if I recall).

I like to keep active if at all possible - your body starts to lose its fitness after 3 days of inactivity so I like to keep the legs n lungs ticking over with some gentle running. It also helps 'clear the passages', although last night I bit off too much trying to keep up with the fast lads on a club fartlek session whilst still chesty.

Whatever you do, think about how you feel and don't be tempted to push too hard. Be prepared to cut your session down if you are feeling rough - so plan a route which allows you to bail early!
Posted: 27/10/2006 at 13:09

Most advice urges runners to listen to their body signals so to avoid over or inappropriate training .
I dont believe you will lose any sign training effect by resting completely til your cold is over .
Training is a stress like a cold and the combination means your body has to cope with two significant stressors
A few days off training should not make any long term difference to your aims but the risk of continuing is to be run down for some time (up to several weeks)
stress & recovery = improvment

Posted: 27/10/2006 at 17:15


Chest cold = no way hoose' (sp ?)
Blocked nostralls = Generally ok
Fever = have done it but makes things worse

However when a cold is 'bubbling under' hard training always makes sure it breaks out big style.


Posted: 27/10/2006 at 19:09

i've had a very non-specific probably viral infection for over 2 months now which has relapsed every time i've felt better & gone for a run.
its taken over a month to start recovering from this last bout, and i'm still not better.
I desparately want to train now, but i'm scared to. its horrible. I've never taken so much time off in my life...
anyone else experienced anything like this?
Posted: 28/10/2006 at 11:03

If you run when you have a cold you will make it worse - don't do it.
Posted: 28/10/2006 at 17:11

Never ever run with a chest cold!
Posted: 28/10/2006 at 17:47

In my experience,even if it's just a cold it's still better to take a few days off until you feel physically better.If you don't,you'll probably find it takes longer to shake off and it'll take longer to get back into proper training.

As others have said,if it's more than just a cold,no way !
Posted: 28/10/2006 at 19:08

If I'm feeling a little under the weather I find getting out for a gentle run helps. (I pay close attention to HRM though, and keep the effort EASY)and 30-35 minutes max. May be psychological, but I'm sure the lift my mood gets from this helps with recovery. Much better than staying indoors and feeling miserable for not training.

Anything on the chest at all, DON'T RUN !
Posted: 28/10/2006 at 20:33

ah, glad this thread came up. mini tweety has just given me her cold (my first one in ages.) i got a run of colds about this time last year and had to take ages off exercising because i felt so bad. then had the flu (uuuuuurgh) and couldn't get out of bed for 3 days.

ditto to no running with probs on the chest or a high temp. the idea about just going out for a walk in the fresh air and possibly breaking into a jog is a great one and the one i will be taking tomorrow morning (after i have taken my temperature in a bit.)
Posted: 28/10/2006 at 22:36

I've found that a gentle run helps perk me up when I've got minor sniffles. Anything worse, then rest up.

If you feel up for a wee run, try a gentle jog - if your symptoms worsen after 5-10 mins, then call it a day. There's always tomorrow!
Posted: 29/10/2006 at 15:45

Thanks for all the advice guys. i'm suffering at the moment and wasnt sure whether it was best to rest up or not. As it seems to be a head cold with the usual lethargic feeling rather than anything more serious i shall continue to run, but perhaps at a slightly slower pace


Posted: 29/10/2006 at 16:22

If it's above the throat and I've no fever, I'll run but keep the pace easy. If my chest is wheezy, forget it, although I may cross train lightly but nothing to hard to put too much work on my lungs. Usually my body is very good at letting me know when enough is enough and most of the time, I have the sense to listen to it. The problem with pushing too hard through a cold is the cold is likely to stay longer.
Posted: 29/10/2006 at 19:01

I had a week off running recently because of a cold - but unfortunately missed my half marathon.

I went to the doctors to get advice and apparently the golden rule is don't run with a temperature.

I think having the week off was good and probably helped me recover quicker (but still gutted I missed my HM!)

Hope you recover soon.
Posted: 29/10/2006 at 19:05

Just adding to the opinions about running with a viral infection. I always tried to "run through" coughs and sneezes, but I don't any more. It may just have been coincidence, but I ended up suffering chronic post-viral fatigue, and I'm only just starting to run at a reasonable level now after more that four years! A few days off, although frustrating, seems a better deal to me.
Posted: 29/10/2006 at 19:11

i would agree with that.. not to run with a cold especially ones thats just showing symptoms. However, if you feel its just hanging on..annoying runny nose etc, then i'd probably run. i'd take great care in very cold, frosty weather, as airways can get more inflammed.
Posted: 30/10/2006 at 10:31

I have had a cold now for about a week, did half an hour in the gym on Wednesday which wasn't too bad, although very sweaty! Thought I was feeling better on Saturday went for a run, and am now back to feeling how I did at the beginning of last week when I first got the damn cold!! I always do this, I have been told time and time again not to run, exercise with and cold butI never learn, I just can't stand being inactive.
Posted: 30/10/2006 at 11:30

I was training really hard all last week and kept feeling a touch of a sore throat. The cold took hold at the weekend and I had a temperature on Saturday and Sunday, but whenever I get a cold it always goes to my chest because I get asthma!! So, I guess I've got an enforced rest, grrr...
I also made the mistake last time in 2004 of starting back too soon and ended up with a really nasty chest infection that I should of taken antibiotics for and ended up missing about 6months of training. So, I will be twiddling thumbs for a few days.
Posted: 30/10/2006 at 12:14

There are colds and colds. I have kept running with just a head cold without any sore throat or temperature. Sometimes exercise seems to help in this situation even if performance is slightly affected.

However, if it's a flu-type virus with a sore throat and/or temperature, you are unlikely even to feel like running and to do so would be very unwise.

I learnt my lesson when I took part in an event a few years ago when I hadn't properly recovered from such a virus, because I try to run every race I enter.
Posted: 30/10/2006 at 12:21

From my experience, I always run with a cold but I do it in the gym, so that if I start to feel worse, I can stop immediately. I rarely do more than 20 mins but actually tend to up the intensity. I have so far found that I get better quicker doing this than if I do nothing.

Having read some of these posts though, I'm probably not actually doing myself any favours and its worth remembering that if you have some base fitness, a few days off will not make any difference.
Posted: 30/10/2006 at 17:02

I've got Man-Flu.
Just ran a PB in the Rainforest 10k.
I can breathe now, and only my legs hurt.
Posted: 30/10/2006 at 19:22

I ran Beachy Head Marathon with a head cold, as soon as I finish it fully came out.
Posted: 30/10/2006 at 21:18

Have run with a cold/sore throat etc and ended up with chronic fatigue and out of action for 8 months. Please take note - and don't do it. I have a cold at the moment and no way am I doing any running can't afford to take that much time out again.
Posted: 31/10/2006 at 12:01

OK its test time. I have a cold that started coming on yesterday (pretty much just as I posted on this thread). Therefore I am going to be the guinea pig and go for a run tonight for an hour. I will post tomorrow on how I feel.

I hope I'm ok as I have a date tomorrow night!!
Posted: 31/10/2006 at 12:04

I think its just a case of moderation still train but not to an extent where you body is recovering the next day you need your body to be focused on getting better so try doing a 10k run but a minute mile slower than you normally would.
The last thing you want to do is turn a cough into a throat infection.
Posted: 31/10/2006 at 12:31

Time to throw in my tuppence worth I think. First of all, the assumption on this thread so far is that you have a cold when you have symptoms. WRONG! When you have symptoms you've already had the cold for a few days. Those last few days you were highly contagious as you were incubating the germs. This is exactly how diseases spread.

So how did you get that cold in the first place? Maybe you had a very hard training session recently and then caught it from a family member. I have read that in the first hour after hard training your immunity is quite low. I usually hide in the bath for most of this hour. It's actually possible to touch an infected surface (eg something that's been sneezed on or another persons hand) then catch a cold just by rubbing your eyes. (The US CDC has a lot more information on this, eg http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/habits.htm).

The moral here is when you go to work, stay away from apparently healthy people. They are probably incubating a disease. The CDC says to avoid close contact with infected people too!

Another runner where I work recommended Aloe Vera to me. I've started taking that and I have not had a cold for many months.

Going back to the question, yes I might run if I feel a little bit under the weather but if I'm really ill I don't run. Usually then I don't have any inclination to get out of the bed either. I did this year's FLM on no breakfast and not feeling 100% (I do not recommend doing this). Hopefully next year will be better!
Posted: 31/10/2006 at 14:06

I agree with most of the entries re not running if more than a head cold but having had two weeks off recently due to a cold and a tight chest, just at time when I was pushing for PB's in 5 and 10k, I have certainly lost fitness and two weeks back running I am nowhere near the pre-cold form. It could be partly due to me now pushing 50 and needing longer to recover from anything, or it may be because I am purposely easing myself back in - spent too much time on the sidelines with strained calves to rush back in and have felt quite tired getting the mileage in even though only run three times a week.
if you can then take your time - better in the long run I hope.
Posted: 01/11/2006 at 06:29

I think the best advice here has been to listen to your body. If you are desperate to get out for some air and exercise but are a bit doubtful then try a walk - it's much easier to moderate your pace and if walking's not hurting or making anything wheeze you could try easing into a run. If it does hurt or your body decides it's not a good idea then a gentle walk won't have harmed you and you will have got some fresh air and blown a few cobwebs away.

I had a bronchial infection and some kind of viral weirdness than knocked me out for weeks back in March. In fact, I missed March altogether. Walking round the local (tiny) park was my benchmark for the recovering fitness. But it worked for me. I knew I was really ill when I couldn't keep up with my Mum!
Posted: 01/11/2006 at 06:44

I started with a very slight tickly cough the day before this year's Great North Run. Having got exercise induced asthma, I took an extra couple of puffs on the inhaler for the run on the Sunday and everything went really well - had a great day. However, by the Monday evening I had a hacking cough and a raging sore throat. After coughing persistantly for two and a half weeks and getting no sleep I went to the Docs who took one look at my throat and gave me antibiotics. I finished the one week course of tablets and was still coughing well into week four, although it was easing up.

I didn't train at all for the first three weeks 'cos throat was just too painful. In week four my legs were itching to do something so I ventured out for a couple of miles jog at a really slow pace. This is now week five and although the cough has now gone I am still left with the blocked ears and sinuses and am now dosing up with Sudafed. I have done a few very short jogs without pushing the pace at all just to get a few miles in my legs and feel much better just for being out and about again. I am determined not to push it yet though 'cos I am sure that your immunity suffers somewhat after an extended virus like that and I don't want to set myself back a few weeks.

I think generally that if you must train then keep the intensity really low and just keep 'ticking over'. Your body will thank you for it in the end!
Posted: 01/11/2006 at 09:08

Just had infection type thing recently- no idea what it was, but after the original sore throat/feverchesty cough had died down, I wen back to work including some lifeguard training in the water- big mistake! I had to go off sick for two weeks & not do anything- just wandering about in the house put me out of breath. Not good Doc gave me antibiotics in the second week & the tiredness back off. Tried a little jog for about 20 mins two days ago- man. my legs ached so much. It now feels like I'm back to the beginning- I've been running for 4 years! Is this the result of lounging about the house or what? I'm now facing the possibilty of starting from scratch again- I'm hoping that it is just the antibiotics, & it'll go away- anybody out there that can help?Pleease!
Posted: 13/06/2010 at 17:45

I last went running on Friday, later on that evening i felt 'rotten', Saturday saw me on the couch all day topping-up on the Vit C (Ginger Tea, Lemsip, chicken soup etc), as the day went on i felt better.  Sunday has seen another day of improvement, today i feel again slightly better. Not 100% my gut instinct says don't run so another evening of rest tonight after work.


Posted: 14/06/2010 at 14:39

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