Which to choose – Running shoes or hot lemon?
Should you run when you are ill?
Woke up this morning feeling a bit rough and nearly decided to call in sick. After 15 minutes extra time in bed, I finally managed to drag myself into the shower and then downstairs for breakfast and a strong black coffee. By the time I needed to leave, I was feeling a lot better.
This got me thinking about my running and whether I should train, feeling like I do – luckily, today is a Friday and my weekly rest day. That said however, I’ll probably still be a bit under the weather on Sunday when I should be doing an 18 km training run.
It’s a funny one, I tend to keep running come rain or shine, cough, sore throat or stomach ache but with increasing age (I’m 42), I seem to be increasing less able to shrug off minor ailments.
I therefore thought it might be a good idea to do a bit of research and find out when you should hang up your shoes for the day and when going for a run will probably make you feel better.
The following is what I found out:
Preventing getting ill in the first place
By far the best way of avoiding having to deal with these kinds of dilemmas, is to try to keep your immune system in tip-top shape. This can usually be accomplished by sticking to the following guidelines.
How to keep your immune system healthy
- Keep well hydrated. Water is usually best and you should be drinking enough before, during and after exercise, to keep your urine clear or a pale yellow colour. Do remember though you shouldn’t over-hydrate either.
- Eat plenty of fresh and preferably raw fruit and vegetables. A least 5 a day.
- Consider taking vitamin supplements and fish oil.
- Avoid saturated fats, which tend to have an inflammatory effect on the body.
- Listen to your body and try to avoid over-training at all costs. Always give yourself enough time to recover between runs.
- Make sure you get enough sleep. The hormone melatonin is secreted whilst you are asleep, and insufficient melatonin production is linked to a decrease in immune function. Sleep also lets your body recover from your training.
- Keep stress levels as low as possible – trail running is excellent for this!
The above the neck rule
The most commonly quoted way of deciding whether you are too ill to exercise, is the above the neck rule:
- Above the neck – if you have a head cold, mild sore throat, headache or other symptoms that are confined to parts of your body above the neck and you don’t have a fever, exercising will probably make you feel better. Do, however, take it a little easier than normal.
- Below the neck – if you are suffering from any whole body symptoms such as a fever or chest or gastrointestinal infections, you should avoid exercise until you feel better.
In practice, I usually tend to go out if I feel up to it. I do however often make the mistake of going for a run at the start of an bad cold or flu and end up making myself worse.
I also find if you are at the end of an chest or other infection, a bit of gentle exercise can help clear out the final bits of gunk.
I really shouldn’t have gone running the day I started writing this article and I’m definitely not doing anything for the next couple of days! This is the first time I’ve been this Ill in a long time. So it’s bed, plenty of rest, liquids, paracetamol and hot lemon for me.