Can I Go Running Despite A Cold? What the Expert Says

Particularly during the cold months of the year, your immune system is sometimes weakened, making you more susceptible to sniffles, sore throats or colds. Normally, this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but what if it happens in the middle of your training? I’m sure you’ve asked yourself in this situation whether or not you should take a few days off. Running expert Sascha Wingenfeld has some tips for you on what to do when you get a cold.

The right way to deal with a cold

Is it a good idea to keep training? Or is it better to take a break, so you don’t overstress your body or your heart? “As so often in life, the truth is in the details. When your body is busy fighting the cold and speeding your recovery, training wouldn’t do your body any good. While it is true that exercise and sports strengthen your body’s defenses and immune system, this only applies to healthy bodies,” points out running expert Sascha Wingenfeld.


Listen to your body

If all you have are the sniffles and no other symptoms, then a bit of exercise will do your body good. But make sure to pay attention to the following points:

  • The effort and intensity should be very low. Keep reminding yourself to follow this rule. Under the circumstances, a fast walk might even be enough.
  • Wear a scarf or a bandana over your mouth to protect yourself from the cold air. That way you don’t breathe in the ice cold air directly.
  • If it is too cold, you should think about doing an indoor sport for a change or working out in a gym or at home.
  • Drink more than usual.
  • Recovery. After your training, it is very important to get plenty of recovery when you are not feeling 100%.
  • Dress warmer and change out of your sweaty clothes and into a dry outfit right after your workout.

Are you fighting flu-like symptoms? Then your immune system is already working full speed on your recovery. “In this case, any additional training would overstress your body,” explains Sascha. You run the risk of being sick longer and maybe even doing permanent damage to your body. Until your fever goes down, rest is the name of the game. People taking medication often feel better faster and tend to get back on their training schedule sooner. But you need to be careful about this. Often, you are still sick; it’s just that the medication is suppressing your symptoms, making you feel better. “The more you train while you are sick, the worse your performance will be afterwards. Due to the two-fold stress of healing your body and training, your body is overworked and your performance will continue to decrease,” cautions the expert. Treat yourself to a couple of days off instead of continuing to train without thinking. The more you take care of yourself, the faster you will able to start training again.


The healthy way to start back

Sascha Wingenfeld has 5 tips to help you get back on your feet again after a cold.

  1. You should be symptom free without medication for at least three days and feel 100% fit.
  2. You should take your first session very easy: low intensity and short workout periods. Monitor the intensity of your workout using your heart rate.
  3. After the first training session, take another day off to recover. See how your body reacts to starting up again.
  4. Avoid high intensity training for the same number of days you had to take a break due to illness. If you start training at high intensity too soon, there is a chance of getting sick again.
  5. See a sports medicine specialist for a check-up and get his or her OK before starting to train again.

Don’t forget: The winter months are perfect for training and running. Take advantage of your chance to lay the necessary foundation for the summer now. True to the motto “champions are made in winter!” If you listen to your body and don’t ignore its signals, you’ll be off to a big head start in the spring.

So keep having fun running!



Sascha Wingenfeld Sascha, health trainer & active triathlete, has been coaching runners from beginners to professionals for over 10 years. "I love my job and I love running." View all posts by Sascha Wingenfeld »