Now that the kids are back at school and cold season is well established, you may be fighting a scratchy throat or the sniffles. So is it OK to continue training if you’re sick? Your mother may have told you that you shouldn’t do anything more strenuous than climbing the stairs to bed when you have a respiratory infection (aka a cold), but research shows that whether you exercise or not makes no difference to how sick you get or how long your cold lasts.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that you shouldn’t take a rest day if you’re feeling terrible–of course you should. (And your running partner would no doubt forgive you for confining your snot rockets to the box of tissues in your bedroom.) But if it’s just a case of being slightly under the weather and you feel like getting out there, you won’t make things worse by running with a cold.
As with any other type of injury, it’s best to listen to your body. Start out at a slower pace than your schedule calls for. If you feel pretty good, you could try picking up the pace and doing your regular workout. If you feel lousy, give yourself permission to cut it short and go home and rest.
What if I have the flu?
The flu is different. (That’s why they have a shot for it.) If you have flu symptoms (fatigue, fever, diarrhea, vomiting, or swollen glands), it’s best to skip all workouts until you recover. Consider that it could be a sign that you’re overtraining and your immune system is compromised. Research shows that prolonged exercise has a temporary dampening effect on your immune system, making you more susceptible to picking up bugs.
Should I take something?
If you have a go-to cold remedy that you’re convinced works for you, by all means, take it, but be aware that it’s likely the placebo effect, since research has so far failed to to show definitive support for any supplement or remedy that claims to prevent colds.