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Picture this: you’re having one of the best training cycles of your life. Workouts are going well, races, are going well, and even your easy runs feel effortless. Your race is coming up in just a few short weeks, and you can’t feel more prepared.

Then it happens. It’s not even an injury, but you get sick. It happens to the best of us, and believe me I’ve been there a few times.

The question is should you rest? Should you run easy or train through an illness?

Running through sickness is one of the most debated topics in the running world. Most runners are stubborn and “need” to stay on the routine, and schedule. That tunnel vision and need quickly overrides what is smart and common sense.

After trying to run through an illness, many of us find ourselves sicker. Keep in mind, like injuries different types of disease merit different responses and often times running can just slow down recovery.

The most generic way to determine whether it’s okay to workout is the neck rule.

If your symptoms are above the neck such as a runny nose, sneezing, or a mild sore throat than an easy run is typically okay.

If your symptoms get worse with working out, than stop. Easy running is much different than a hard workout or race. Both a race or hard workout will typically delay your recovery.

When your symptoms below the neck such as stomach issues, vomiting, muscle pains, or a fever, it’s best to fully rest. You will only do more harm than good by working out. You won’t have productive runs, and you’ll only delay your recovery.

So what you should you do when you get sick?

When your body begins to fight an illness, it drains your body of energy. While sure, you can run or do an easy workout, it’s best to rest. By resting, you are more likely to feel better in a few days instead of a few weeks. When in doubt, rest. It’s a hard lesson I’ve learned, but it’s definitely valuable.

A few days of rest will do your body good anyway. You’ll be able to recover from other small issues, you might even know you had.

When I was younger, I used to fear, I would lose fitness overnight but remember this: Fitness is not gained overnight, and it’s not lost either!

When should you begin running again?

As cliché as it sounds, always listen to your body. When you feel better is when you should run again. I usually give myself an extra day.

So when I feel like I could run, I give myself an extra day and get out the following day for something short, and easy. This is especially true if you have been vomiting, or not able to stomach food.

Finally, don’t forget that resuming to running should be gradual. If you take a week off, it’s not the best idea to go back to 100%. Then you could set yourself up for an injury. As someone who has made that mistake, the last thing you want after time off is more time off.

Always listen to your body and remember, no run or training is worth getting sicker and having to take more time off.


Hollie Sick is an avid New Jersey-based runner who’s completed more than 40 half marathons and the 2018 New York City Marathon. Read her blog, or follow her on Facebook.


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