Should I run if I am sick?

I’m siiiick. Middle of winter bad cold siiiiick. And this week was meant to be my first week back into training. For what I am not sure yet, but at the very least I really need to get out there and start running regularly again.
But I’m siiiick and there’s no real reason to train if I don’t have to, which makes it all the more difficult to make myself get up at 5:30 and go for a run before work.
Did I mention I was siiiiick?

left nostril sick

So how bad do you have to feel to not run? Headache? Tiredness? Sore throat? Where do you draw the line?

For me I draw the line at fevers, chesty coughs and, even if neither of those are present, a high resting heart rate.

sick happy hour

Unfortunately I had to go to work this week. No choice.


Thank god for scotch, the patron saint of colds.

I really feel like I was stalked by this cold. For weeks whenever I didn’t get enough sleep I would get a slightly sore throat, or feel overly tired in comparison to my efforts.
Because this was just after the Surf Coast Trail Marathon I just sucked it up and tried to get more sleep and not push myself too much.

Then my daughter got sick. Then my husband. A week later I was still in the clear, but one week and one day later, that sore tingly throat came back again then morphed into me waking up on Sunday morning feeling like I’d been hit by a truck.

After two days of feeling like crap I decided I was going to be better now, because despite years of evidence to the contrary it seems I still believe that stubbornly pretending I am fine will make me actually feel better.

So when I hit Tuesday evening and I was thoroughly sick of feeling sick I decided that enough was enough. I was okay now.

Because life doesn’t work like this and I was obviously not better yet, I hatched a cunning plan to trick myself into going out.

I decided that in the interests of science I’d go on a short run, still feeling like shit, and see how it affected me.

Who me? Messing with my health? No siree, this is for science. Right Jesse?


Look, I’m not a complete idiot, my resting HR was completely normal; 46 bpm sitting at my desk at work. Super.
But I was definitely not well.
My symptoms included:
Pressure headache from blocked sinuses
Sore throat (it felt like I was swallowing glass shards)
Sleeeeepy. Soooo tired. I was at least 15 minutes late to work every day that week.
Slightly lightheaded (but it was kind of pleasant, I kept getting distracted by the texture of tree bark or the sea of grass in front of me…)
Oh, and everything tasted like sawdust so I wasn’t eating much.

So why do a run feeling like this?
Well, a) I could hardly feel worse, b) it was only 5k and c) I think my mind is sometimes a big fat liar.
What if I was just being a wuss and I was really not that sick?

If you’re just not sure whether to exercise or not, much more professional opinions than mine abound online. I find the answers from sites like Runner’s World are too brief or not in-depth enough (or always trying to shill something) but I love  the refreshingly honest Ask Lauren Fleshman.

This particular question almost exactly mirrors my issue:
When you are sick, should you run?

And as for the results from my Study of One, well, let’s say that further data is required. It achieved its objective, which was to get me out for a run.

It cleared my head, cheered me up, felt pretty good considering and stopped that little nagging voice in my mind that was telling me I was lazy. Cracking a sweat seemed to wake me up a bit and made me feel a liiittle less revolting.

So if you can’t decide whether you’re really sick or your mind is just trying on excuses, give it a go, with a few simple conditions:
Symptoms above the neck – yes, below the neck – no.
Run easy, no pushing yourself
Keep warm
Get more sleep

And remember:


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