Updated: July 3rd, 2022
Running when you’re sick: should you run with a cold?

The best answer is no, don’t run when you’re down and out with a cold.


Your body is using up a lot of its energy to fight off that bug you’ve caught. So give your body a chance to get you back to 100% – if you decide to go running anyway (we’ve all done it at least once) your body has to split its energy and focus between exercising and recovering…properly. The outcome? Feeling worse after your run, and that you recover much, much slower.

That being said, it is much easier to tell you to stay inside and rest than actually DOING it, especially when you’re on a training plan) and I get that… so if you are that someone… consider the following:

Are your symptoms above or below the neck?

If your cold symptoms are ABOVE the neck, it’s probably safe to run. If your cold symptoms lay BELOW the neck, you’re better off sitting out on this run today.

Women nursing a headache

A blocked nose, runny nose or sore throat are symptoms above the neck and are safe to run. However, having a tight chest, high temperature or aching muscles are signs to put your running shoes away and rest up. Running with a tight chest or fever can develop into a full-blown chest infection if you’re not careful and refuse to rest up.

Taking a few days or a week off to rest will not harm your training as much as you think. Deciding to rest and recover is just what your body needs, so accept it and don’t stress about missing a few runs on your training plan. Good quality rest will honestly help you bounce back in no time!

Tips for running with a cold:

  • Take your foot off the pedal! Lowering the intensity of your run will help open up your airways and get that rush of runners high without demanding too much of your body.
  • That means 86 the interval training too – yeah, that’s not happening, it’s too intense so swap it for a slow steady run instead, if you must.
  • Meant to be 10 miles today? Let’s cut it down to 3-5 miles… now isn’t the time for a long run.
  • Run to your heart rate Zone – because you are ill your resting heart rate sits higher than normal. Thus, any running effort will also have a higher heart rate sticking to zone 1-2 for a cold run will cap your efforts perfectly
  • .

  • Don’t race, and consider pulling out of any upcoming races too
  • Take a few tissues, a light run can really clear your nose out.
  • Keep warm

Runner trying to keep warm zipping up her jacket

What to do if it is a Taper cold

It is actually pretty common to get a cold through the final tapering week or two which is the biggest pain, EVER! Because taper weeks come immediately after your most intense period of training, the ‘open window’ theory suggests it is easier to get run down with a viral infection.

What to do if you get a cold in taper week

  • You will not LOSE fitness: Remember, taper week runs do NOT improve your fitness, they maintain your current level
  • The most important thing is to get to the start line symptom-free and feeling well
  • Rest rather than train when your sick
  • Check the ‘neck rule’
    where are your symptoms? Is it safe for you to race?
  • Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Rest and don’t panic , no amount of training can help you right now.
  • Check with your doctor
    to see if it’s flu or cold, or allergies – they will point you in the right direction and prescribe the medication you need.
  • Drink plenty of fluids
    , hot fruit/herbal tea does the trick – avoid sugar and caffeine

Woman nursing a cold with a hot tea

How to avoid colds in the first place:

  • Eat right, a balanced and colourful plate – fuel properly for all of your runs – before, during and after!
  • Dress for the weather
  • Exercise regularly as it boosts your immune system (but intensity can lower your immune system!)
  • Run or cycle to work instead of public transport (a hotbed of germs and viruses)
  • Always wash your hands with soap and warm water
  • Schedule in breaks so you don’t ‘overdo it’
  • If you’ve run in the rain immediately change out of your wet clothes immediately after finishing
  • Wait 24 hours after cold symptoms have subsided before heading out, or the symptoms could return!
  • Listen to your body – if you’re feeling run down and need a rest, then do it.
  • Take a longer tapering phase (two weeks instead of one)

Good luck, i hope you beat the cold!

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