Can I Run When I’m Sick?

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Good morning, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day! 🙂 My sister-in-law, Sophie, was very surprised yesterday when I told her what a big deal St. Patrick’s Day is in America.  Just wait ‘til I take her to the bar later for Green Beer!


But first… a beige breakfast.  🙂


In the mix:


  • 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup rice milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 banana
  • Toppings: coconut shavings and almonds


I actually quadrupled the recipe to make breakfast for four… We have a full house!


I’m taking the day off from writing (I’m making editing to the Operation Beautiful II book right now) and working at the clinic to spend the day with Sophie.  Since I’m feeling loads better, we’re going to go on a walk/run – I’m aiming for 3.0 miles.  I’ve only run 2.0 miles over the last week and would really like to get back in my groove – I’ve got two half marathons in the next two weeks!


A very common question for runners is “Can I run when I’m sick?”


The general consensus is that if your cold is above the neck (i.e. congestion), you’re okay to run.


Yes, that’s suppose to be me.  🙂


If your cold is below the neck (chest congestion, intense coughing, vomiting, or diarrhea), you should continue to rest and let the illness run its course. (Source)


“This view is supported by research done at Ball State University by Tom Weidner, Ph.D., director of athletic training research. In one study, Weidner took two groups of 30 runners each and inoculated them with the common cold. One group ran 30 to 40 minutes every day for a week. The other group was sedentary. According to Weidner, "the two groups didn’t differ in the length or severity of their colds." In another study, he found that running with a cold didn’t compromise performance. He concluded that running with a head cold–as long as you don’t push beyond accustomed workouts–is beneficial in maintaining fitness and psychological well-being.” (Source)


HOWEVER, if you have a sinus infection, you should NOT run.  Despite the fact that sinus infections are “above the neck,” running with a sinus infection can create pneumonia or respiratory distress. (Source)


Other doctors believe you should balance the “above the neck” rule with the temperature rule:  if your temperature is above 99 degrees, you shouldn’t run.


What does the Husband think about all this?  As y’all might know, the Hus is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine (aka an acupuncturist and herbalist), and he definitely has strong opinions about exercising while sick.  He thinks it’s absolutely insanity that anyone would workout while ill, especially if they have body aches or temperature changes.  In the Husband’s view, intense exercise compromises your body’s ability to naturally heal itself, places excessive stress on your immune system, and “just isn’t worth it.”


So – where does that leave me?


  • I don’t run if I feel exhausted or have body aches due to illness
  • I don’t run if I have a sore throat or sinus pain
  • I don’t run if I have the slightest temperature or FEEL like I have a temperature (hot flashes)
  • I will run, however, if I just have the sniffles and no other symptoms.  But it will be a very easy run!


On that note – off on our run!  🙂



  • Sarah @ See Sarah Graduate March 17, 2011, 9:40 am

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I’m looking forward to the green beer tonight too!
    And great post–running while sick is something I’ve always debated about. It’s nice to see a different perspective.

  • Amy @ThenThereWere March 17, 2011, 9:43 am

    Hi Caitlin,

    I agree with the above but this week I’ve found myself wondering what the rules are for exercising during ‘that’ time of the month.

    **WARNING – please don’t read if TMI girli-ness scares you!**

    This month I am bleeding more and for longer than normal (46 days post D&C from my miscarriage). My upset tummy has been in play for the last 4 days (normally I just get a little bit of an upset the night before I come on). Plus I’ve had the normal PMT tiredness + a bit for the extra bleeding and a bit of a sore throat. Do I not exercise because of the upset tum or exercise but listen carefully to my body and not push it too much?

    Amy x

    • Caitlin March 17, 2011, 9:46 am

      The Hubs would absolutely say not to run at all. Your body has been through enough trauma and your chi is all going crazy. Take a rest. Maybe some relaxing yoga to help your body and your mind?

    • Amy March 17, 2011, 11:41 am

      Hey – I have no advice about exercise or anything, I just want to say that I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ve had 2 miscarriages and it’s just brutal. You’re not alone.

      • Caitlin March 17, 2011, 4:03 pm


        • Amy March 17, 2011, 4:47 pm

          Aw, thanks 🙂

  • maria @ Chasing the Now March 17, 2011, 9:44 am

    Hope you get to feeling better!

  • Stacy @ Every Little Thing March 17, 2011, 9:44 am

    Hope you feel better! I think those are good rules for working out while sick.

    It is funny what a big deal America makes of St. Patty’s Day. Always fun though!

  • britt will be fit March 17, 2011, 9:44 am

    enjoy your day!

  • Parita @ myinnershakti March 17, 2011, 9:48 am

    Feel better, Caitlin! And I use the same sort of analysis when deciding to work out or not, and oftentimes it’s either a yeah I can do this or NO I feel YUCKY! Have a good one!

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat March 17, 2011, 9:48 am

    I agree with you! If I have a head cold, sometimes running helps to make me cough up whatever needs to get out and I’m good for the rest of the day. But if it’s anything below the chest area… it’s a day off for me!

  • Kaitlin March 17, 2011, 9:48 am

    I’ve been sick this week too! I ran on Monday when I just had a headache and felt fine. But then I got a huge fever! Now I’ve taken 2 days off and am going back to run 5 miles today with a sore throat. I hope it goes well! I’m anxious to get back out there 🙂

    • Caitlin March 17, 2011, 4:05 pm

      I hope you feel better soon!

  • Clarissa March 17, 2011, 9:50 am

    I’ve never thought about coconut in oatmeal or cereal – great idea!!

  • Gabriela @ Une Vie Saine March 17, 2011, 9:50 am

    I’m the same way!! I run through a basic cold (mild cough, runny nose or light headache), but anything more than that and I take the day off. It’s more because it’s uncomfortable than anything…I hate running with snot all over my face, haha!!

  • Anna @ Newlywed, Newly Veg March 17, 2011, 9:50 am

    Haha…I love it that you drew your bangs on your stick figure 🙂

    I try to run a little when I have a cold because I feel like it clears me out a bit!

  • Brittany (A Healthy Slice of Life) March 17, 2011, 9:51 am

    Yes, exercising with a head c old can make me feel better! But aches or fatigue, I skip the gym.

    Hope your run gives you a boost of sickness-fighting endorphins 🙂

  • Holly @ Couch Potato Athlete March 17, 2011, 9:53 am

    Usually if I am sick (or just not feeling well at all) I will take a rest day. That is what my body is almost always screaming for!

    If I’m feeling pretty good I’ll take it easy during the workout and if at anytime I want to quit, I do!

    Have fun with Sophie and I hope she loves the green beer!

  • Kara March 17, 2011, 9:55 am

    I do occasionally exercise if I’m feeling achy and yucky because most of the time that is due to sleep deprivation from having a baby, not sickness. I think working out is better than coffee!

    I hope you feel all better soon and have a great walk/run!

  • Elizabeth@The Sweet Life March 17, 2011, 9:56 am

    Take good care of yourself! I love having a full house.

  • Sarena (The Non Dairy Queen) March 17, 2011, 9:59 am

    I say do what you feel like doing and take care of yourself. I hope you feel better soon!

  • rebecca lustig March 17, 2011, 10:01 am

    i like the theory on running! i tend to suck it up if it’s just a head cold

  • Ali @ Ali on the Run March 17, 2011, 10:02 am

    This is the question I’ve been asking myself all week. I have a 1/2 marathon next weekend (also doing the National!) and would’ve liked to do some short runs and workouts this week. But yesterday the doctor told me I have a sinus infection. I’ve been resting and hydrating and hopefully I’ll have this thing kicked by race day.

    Get better soon!

    • Caitlin March 17, 2011, 4:06 pm

      Yay so fun that you are also doing the National!

  • Leianna March 17, 2011, 10:04 am

    I exercise through everything although I’m barely ever sick. I always run when sick and it makes me heal faster! Sitting on the couch isn’t going to make you better!

  • Jessica @ Dishin' About Nutrition March 17, 2011, 10:05 am

    Question 2 of the day: what is better/the difference between rice milk, almond milk, soy milk and skim milk…I’ve tried all four, they all taste equally fine to me, so which one is “healthiest” (relative term in some cases but you know what I mean)

    • Amy @ThenThereWere March 17, 2011, 11:08 am

      I think they are fairly equal, might depend on calcium levels in them etc. And I think you have to be careful not to have too much soy.

      Amy x

      • Caitlin March 17, 2011, 4:07 pm

        I think all have their pros and cons. I tend to choose non-soy options (and always organic). Less added sugar, the better!

  • Carrie (Moves 'N Munchies) March 17, 2011, 10:09 am

    ah i wish st pattys day was a big deal in the UK :(. its not even a holiday really! esp in Ireland.. its not something to celebrate over there with all the religious conflict!
    i never knew about the above the neck thing or below the neck thing!

  • Natalie @ Will Jog For Food March 17, 2011, 10:17 am

    That’s how i feel too! I little congestion is okay, but when i start feeling out of it and I think I’m getting sick I stay away from workouts. Your body needs to heal 🙂 Exercise puts it in more stress and you will most likely get worse if you choose to work out.

  • Gracie (complicated day) March 17, 2011, 10:20 am

    I run sick, and it usually makes me worse 🙂 Guess the husband is right!

  • Shah'ada March 17, 2011, 10:20 am

    I definitely feel that excessive working out while sick at all is unwise, or at least one needs to be willing to accept that healing may take longer – I’m with your hubs here. No run is worth feeling crappier at the end. Sniffles and nose blowing? Well to me, that’s just nose irritation and no reason to not run . . . given of course you can breath lol.

    • Caitlin March 17, 2011, 4:07 pm

      Sleeves were made for sniffles!

  • Lesley Lifting Life March 17, 2011, 10:21 am

    Hope your “above the neck” run is a good one! 😉

  • Baking 'n' Books March 17, 2011, 10:24 am

    Does Sophie run?

    Enjoy your day off – I expected your Beer Oatmeal again 😉

  • Ashley @ Feeding Ashley March 17, 2011, 10:25 am

    No ones wearing green in that picture, pinch em!

  • Ash @ Good Taste Healthy Me March 17, 2011, 10:26 am

    Your kitchen is absolutely fabulous! I’m seething with jealousy over here. 😉

    I tend to take it easy when I’m sick, even with the sniffles because I hate having to blow my nose every two seconds. I’m a huge baby when I’m sick.

    I assume the hubs doesn’t suggest taking any medicine when sick like sudafed/nyquil etc? Do you take anything like that when you’re sick or do something else? What remedies do you take, if any?

    • Caitlin March 17, 2011, 4:09 pm

      No no, he never takes OTC stuff like that… He will take a variety of holistic remedies instead. There are lots of options, but he takes stuff that are all only available through a holistic physician.

  • Emily March 17, 2011, 10:27 am

    I’m pretty much with you. I will definitely run while sick but not if I’m totally beat down. The biggest exception I’ve ever made to this was when I was recovering from bronchitis a week before Boston last year. My DR gave me the go ahead to run as long as I used my inhaler. I figure if my doctor approves, it’s obviously okay.

  • jen @ taste life March 17, 2011, 10:30 am

    My comment is not related to running while sick, but just about running. I got back to the gym today and ran a couple of miles (with some walk breaks) for the first time in ages, and I’m still on a high, 3.5 hours later! Just wanted to share it with someone 🙂

    • Amy @ThenThereWere March 17, 2011, 11:09 am

      That is awesome!

      Amy x

    • Caitlin March 17, 2011, 4:09 pm

      Yay! you rule.

  • Victoria (District Chocoholic) March 17, 2011, 10:33 am

    I’ll give my usual plug for swimming when you have a head cold. It clears the sinuses.

  • Kerry March 17, 2011, 10:40 am

    Best of luck in your races. We know that you will run smart during your race. I pushed through the pain after a not so ideal (similar to how your trainings been) training and ended up out of running for 6 months. Listen to your body is the best advice.

  • Maggie March 17, 2011, 10:45 am

    I’m sick too. 🙁

    So I’ve decided to stay inside, put on super comfy clothes, and do a very light Zen (like yoga and tai chi) workout on the Xbox Kinect!

    Sick: cry-baby/angry couch-hermit. Yoga to the rescue!

  • Katie @ Nourishing Flourishing March 17, 2011, 10:48 am

    Love the tips! I always have this analysis going in my head when I try to decide whether it’s worth it to work out or not. It’s so hard when being active feels so good, and you think it will make you feel better at the very least mentally 🙂 Enjoy the family — it’s so nice to have everyone together (though it certainly changes the routine, heh)!

  • Joanna@ Drizzle of Sunshine March 17, 2011, 10:52 am

    Great tips Caitlin!! As I get older, I realize that I need to just bite the bullet and REST when I’m sick. I used to go to work, which was selfish because I’m potentially spreading germs, workout, or go out with terrible colds and the like. Now I’ve learned it’s better to rest up then let it linger for weeks!

    • Caitlin March 17, 2011, 4:11 pm

      Good point – spreading germs is the worst.

  • Sana March 17, 2011, 10:56 am

    I agree with your husband! Rest is GOOD for the mind, body and soullll!

  • Natalia - a side of simple March 17, 2011, 11:21 am

    Sometimes I feel like the only time I really let my body rest is when I’m sick so I like to not push myself too much. It always makes me eager to get back into my exercise routine, though, which helps mentally and physically! Hope you have a great run and are feeling better!

  • Marissa C March 17, 2011, 11:23 am

    Can I just say I am jealous of your kitchen? It is super sexy!

    • Caitlin March 17, 2011, 4:12 pm

      My kitchen says thanks 🙂

  • Stace March 17, 2011, 11:26 am

    This is a really good post topic. I alwasy thought at any sight of sickness I should not work out but this all makes sense. In some cases working out might make me feel better when I am just a little bit stuffy. It works when I am hungover I have found out 😉 Happy St. Patricks day.

  • Ashley March 17, 2011, 11:29 am

    Such good tips! Thanks for sharing!

  • Kate (What Kate is Cooking) March 17, 2011, 11:33 am

    Hope you feel better! I am taking it easy right now- I am sick but I have a race on Sunday!

  • Kailey (SnackFace) March 17, 2011, 11:40 am

    I just had a hideous sinus-related headache and sore throat (as in, felt as though it was going to close up), and I said no to the gym. It’s SO not worth it! If I don’t feel well, what’s the point? The sniffles ain’t no thang, but pounding sinuses and sore throat (hello, post-nasal drip)? No thanks.

  • Linz March 17, 2011, 11:42 am

    That is really good to know about sinus infections, I’ve been running through them. Explains why its taken me a little longer to shake them off!

  • Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife March 17, 2011, 11:45 am

    I agree–I only work out when I am feeling sniffly, not flu-like symptoms. Enjoy your run-and feel better!

  • Katie @ PEACEBEME March 17, 2011, 11:46 am

    So true that St. Patty’s is so big in America. I have also heard that Cinco de Mayo celebrations are bigger here than in Mexico. We’ll take any excuse to drink a beer I guess, 😉 .

  • Amy March 17, 2011, 11:48 am

    I’ve had a really, really terrible cold this week so I’ve been thinking about this very question! There was no way I would have been able to run while sick this week, but now that I’m recovering I’m looking forward to doing some yoga and getting back out for a run this weekend!

    Personally, even if my cold isn’t very severe, I don’t like to work out during those days when you literally have to blow your nose every 30 seconds. Gross. 🙂

  • Maria @ Oh Healthy Day March 17, 2011, 11:52 am

    Great advice! I too have been wondering if I’m taking too many rest days since I got a sinus infection. I now am very happy that I have been taking it easy. I also apply the 10 minute rule, normally used to motivation purposes. I do 10 minutes of easy cardio, if I feel great afterwards, I continue, if not, I stop.

  • Kacy March 17, 2011, 11:58 am

    This is good to know! I usually get one bad sinus infection a year. I ran on it last year because I refused to go to the doctor and had to take like three weeks off of my training because it got so bad. This year as soon as it started up again I went to the doctor and got it treated so I could get back to working out. Much better solution.

  • Whitney March 17, 2011, 12:22 pm

    Great advise! I like your husbands idea and I am moving more and more towards the concept as I grow older and wiser. There is no reason to put more stress on your body while its trying to recover from any illness. The more stress added the longer you take to heal. I would rather feel better in a few days then take 2 weeks to recover and get in a half ass workout

  • mary (what's cookin' with mary) March 17, 2011, 12:43 pm

    Don’t know that I’ve ever seen a shot of your whole kitchen… SO pretty! Reminds me on mine 😉

  • Jen March 17, 2011, 1:05 pm

    I was expecting a St. Patrick’s Day green monster breakfast! Haha I hope you’re feel better! I just got over a miserable cold that had me knocked out for a full five days, but I’ve been running this week and feel a lot better.

    • Caitlin March 17, 2011, 4:14 pm

      Oh man a GM would’ve been perrrrrrrfect.

  • chelsey @ clean eating chelsey March 17, 2011, 1:15 pm

    I like your “to run or not to run” attitude. I would have to say that I agree with everything you said!

  • Anna March 17, 2011, 1:39 pm

    Great points- especially the fever one. An elevated temperature is a sign that your body is trying to fight an infection, so you really don’t want to tax it by raising the temp any more.

    I just wanted to add that you should also consider your fellow gym-goers and yoga studio patrons if you’re thinking of working out when sick. This isn’t such a problem if you’re exercising outdoors, but coughing and hacking all over the place in tight quarters with other people isn’t very considerate. You wouldn’t want to get anyone else sick!

  • Meghan@travelwinedine March 17, 2011, 3:29 pm

    I would have to add to wait a couple of days AFTER having a temperature to do any large amount of strenuous running. A friend of a friend ended up hospitalized for over a month because of dehydration/overheating in a 1/2 a few days after being sick. Not worth it!

  • Joanne March 17, 2011, 3:51 pm

    So glad you’re feeling better. There is an awful lot of germs floating around out there these days.

    Most of us know the rules for running/not running when sick and would certainly recommend to anyone not to run if they are under the weather. But when it comes to ourselves, doesn’t it seem we push the limits? After my half marathon in Feb. I had the flu. Being so obsessed with marathon training, I only took one day off. It was absolute torture running with the flu and I would say anyone who did it was crazy. Why did I? I tried to justify it as “mental training”. You know… keep going even when you want to stop? Really silly. I think doing that prolonged the virus because I wasn’t allowing my body to sleep and recover.
    Some of us are just not very good sick people 🙁

  • Emily @ Perfection Isn't Happy March 17, 2011, 4:27 pm

    When I attempt to workout when I’m sick, it only leads to me getting worse. You think I’d learn my lesson the first time, but I always tell myself I can do more than I can. I need to learn to rest!!

  • Mary @ Bites and Bliss March 17, 2011, 4:40 pm

    Whenever I’m feeling iffy, I try a lil “pre-run” by jogging up the stairs a few times. If I get light headed or anything, then obviously running’s out of the picture. But if I feel fine, then I’ll try for the run. But yes..that’s only for above-the-neck stuff! Anything else and I take a day off.

  • Emma (Namaste Everyday) March 17, 2011, 5:00 pm

    This is a very interesting issue because I am constantly battling with this idea. I don’t catch too many colds, but when it happens, I am sick for about 2 weeks. I never stop doing yoga, but with running, it can be an issue. I think it’s better to do a run/walk combo, because its good to get the blood flowing either way!

  • Alexa @ Simple Eats March 17, 2011, 5:13 pm

    Hope you feel better! I ran the other day with a sore throat, thinking I’d feel better, and it made it completely worse! I learned the hard way!

  • Allison @ Happy Tales March 17, 2011, 5:46 pm

    If my body isn’t feeling up to par, i give myself rest! There’s always the future and another day to run… plus, the more rest i get, the faster I heal!

  • Gina @ Gina Eats Beans March 17, 2011, 6:56 pm

    I went to Ball State! I was pretty excited that it got mentioned in your post today!

  • Ellie@fitforthesoul March 17, 2011, 7:40 pm

    so true! My fiance has very bad polyps and sinus troubles so if he’s not in bed or taking it reaaallly easy when he has sinus problems, it nearly kills him and condition goes for up to a month or longer! I loved the pictures, now I’ll always remember your advice haha.

  • Runeatrepeat March 17, 2011, 7:40 pm

    I like this easy rule, “If it’s in the chest, you must rest.”

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