A doctor once told me, “Runners are problem children.” Usually, we wear that label with pride, knowing we will run through sleep deprivation, cold weather, rain, heat, snow, stress, and sickness. But how sick is too sick to run, and where do you draw the line?
Runners seem to live by a creed that’s stricter than the postman’s: “Neither rain, nor snow, nor sniffle, nor fever shall keep me from my training schedule.” And in the flu season between Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day, many of us are sidelined by various symptoms of flu. The “neck rule” provides a helpful guideline for when to run and when to rest: Symptoms below the neck (chest cold, bronchial infection, body ache) require time off, while symptoms above the neck (runny nose, stuffiness, sneezing) don’t pose a risk to runners continuing workouts.
But, doctors say, you still walk — or run — a fine line. Take extra caution when training with anything worse than a minor cold because it can escalate into more serious conditions affecting the lower respiratory tract and lungs. Even without the presence of a fever, some sinus infections, when stressed by exercise, can lead to pneumonia. Unfortunately, winter weather increases risk of sickness because dry air encourages irritation of the nasal and throat passages.
Long story short, use your judgment but err on the side of caution. At DCRC, we believe you should run happy, and that means being happy: happy enough to drink a beer after your run so you can come back next week.