It seems like whenever I find more time in my schedule to run, I come down with a cold. Although I do frequently run through mild cold symptoms such as a runny nose or sore throat, I’d definitely prefer to avoid getting sick. Try these strategies to stay healthy during cold and flu season:
1. Wash your hands frequently. It sounds very obvious, but washing your hands with soap and warm running water is one of the best and easiest things you can do to stay healthy. Be especially vigilant when you’re in a public place like a restaurant or your gym.
2. Get plenty of sleep. Sleep deprivation can make you more susceptible to colds and other illnesses. Getting proper sleep — at least 7 to 8 hours per night — will boost your immune system. Bonus: You’ll also run better and be more motivated to run when you’re well-rested.
3. Maintain a balanced diet. Get plenty of fruits and vegetables, which contain antioxidants, and limit your saturated fats. Follow these healthy eating tips for runners.
4. Drink water. Staying hydrated is important for illness prevention, so make sure that you’re drinking plenty of water during the day and hydrating during exercise. You’ll know you’re properly hydrated if your urine is light yellow.
5. Don’t skip the tapering period. If you’re running a long distance race, such as a marathon, it’s important to cut back your mileage in the two to three weeks before your race. This tapering period will allow your immune system to recover from all the hard training you’ve been doing and make you less susceptible to a pre-race cold.
6. Be diligent after your race, too. Many long distance runners come down with a cold after an endurance event because their body’s immune system is busy repairing the damage rather than fighting off infections. So cold prevention strategies are especially critical during the 3-4 days following your race.
Can I Run With a Cold?
So what happens if you do end up getting sick? Is it safe to run with a cold?” The answer, as is the case with many running-related questions is, “It depends.”
Let your symptoms be your guide when determining if you can run with a cold. Use the above/below neck rule. If your symptoms are above your neck, such as runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, or sore throat, it’s safe to run. You may want to slow down your usual pace and drink some more water during your run, but you should generally feel OK. If your symptoms are below your neck, such as chest congestion, upset stomach, or diarrhea, then you should rest and wait until those symptoms pass before attempting to run.
Also see: Tips for Running With Seasonal Allergies