Exercising When Sick | running when sick

 Is it okay to exercise while you’re sick? It is one of the biggest dilemmas I face as a runner and the answer depends on the symptoms you’re feeling. I’ve included healthy foods for the immune system. 

It started last Wednesday with a sore throat. I figured some fresh air would do me good, so I went on my scheduled run anyway. I decreased my pace and distance for a compromise. I started taking 1,000 mg of Vitamin C.

On Thursday, I woke up to my alarm for my morning workout and the sore throat was still lingering. Since I was already up, I decided to do another easy day of light weights. I compromised with myself again by skipping my regular First Thursday Whole Foods wine tasting. (sacrifices) I ate salmon for dinner, because it is a good source of B-12, a vitamin that helps with the immune system. 

salmon with broccoli for cold-fighting

salmon with broccoli for cold-fighting

Friday morning came and I still had the sore throat. I did 20 minutes of easy stretching before work. I stocked up on fresh lemons- I squeezed a whole lemon in my water bottle and drank all day. Lemons are a detoxifying fruit and contain a high amount of Vitamin C. After work I was feeling stiff from the day, so I did “Yoga for Athletes.”

Saturday‘s weather was cloudy and cold, a perfect day for an excuse not to run. But being the person that I am, after my visit to the farmer’s market, I decided to go on an easy run around the neighborhood. My sore throat was gone, all I had was a tickle in my throat and a cough. This was one of the best runs I’ve had alone in a long time. I felt great! My breathing was right, my pace felt good- I left the GPS watch in the car so I wouldn’t be concerned with time or distance. I went by feel. I got Suja’s FIJI juice at Whole Foods. Its one of those tasty green juices packed with kale, lemons, ginger and apples- a Vitamin C powerhouse!

Suja Juice

On Sunday, I was feeling congested. My nose was running so often, it was like it was training for an ultra-marathon! (Okay, I know bad joke.) I took it easy in the morning deciding that I would see how I felt later in the day to exercise. By afternoon I felt slightly better, so I did another yoga video from www.doyogawithme.com. This is seriously the best resource for yoga- totally free and many different class lengths and styles.


By Monday, I realized I needed a break. I was not feeling any better. I didn’t even have to fight with myself to skip my morning workout. The weather was about as bad as I felt- torrential downpour and 50 degrees! I had a sinus headache, runny nose and my ears felt like they were stuffed with cotton. By afternoon I caved and finally took cold medicine, then came home and took a two hour nap. The worst part about a cold is a suppressed appetite. Your taste buds are worthless so it makes every meal so sad when you can’t taste what you love so much. I included lentils in my dinner because they are high in zinc- another beneficial mineral for the immune system. 

Tuesday I went to the doctor. I am never sick for this long! She diagnosed me with an upper-respiratory infection. “Its just a virus that needs to run its course,” she told me. “I’d say you’re about halfway done.”

I moaned. “So I probably shouldn’t exercise?” I asked, even though the damage had already been done.

“I wouldn’t do any stressful physical activity. You could walk if you really need to get out.”

Walk. Yeah, runners don’t walk. She also recommended I don’t cook for others because I am still contagious, which means I had to stop my catering job for the week. And that’s what I do with friends- cook with them! So now I have to stay in the house and only cook alone so I don’t infect others. Lets just say I ate lots of kale for dinner.

So today (Wednesday) I feel better, but I know I have medicine to mask my true symptoms. I forced myself to rest again.

Back to the original question- can you exercise when you’re sick?


Runner’s World has a great article for guidance for runners. If its above the neck, you’re good to go. But if you’re having congested lungs, stomach problems or excessive coughing, sit it out. Regardless, if you aren’t feeling great scale back your workouts to 50% effort.

Weight Training

the same rules apply. If you start to feel worst during a workout, stop. If you have flu-like symptoms such as achey muscles, you definitely don’t want to be lifting weights because it could lead to injury.


Yoga is a savior for those with mild sickness like head colds. Gentle yoga has actually been proven to help your cold, because the breathing helps circulate the blood. This is not the time for hot yoga. Keep the sessions shorter and really focus on breathing. Yoga Journal has a great set of poses here.

3 thoughts on “Exercising When Sick | running when sick

  1. When I’m sick my energy and motivation just melt away. I have run with a head cold and my nose runs all the time on a cold run. But when I am sick I tend to take some time off and try to get better ASAP.

  2. Really enjoyed reading your blog. Specially the one about Exercising when sick. Both of your cousins, Sam and David have a sinus infection and im trying to decide what to cook for the New Years Holiday to help them. What other ideas do you have for a New Year meal when sick? Love, Aunt Cynthia

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