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Running with Illness: Intro

Updated on April 21, 2007

Illness and injury can be the two most frustrating factors about running. You build a good base, get into the rhythm, and then you wake up with the flu. So first, how can we help prevent illness from occurring? Good eating habits will help, and so too will running. Straight after a workout, your immune system will be weakened, with the number of white blood cells reduced. A couple of hours later however, the number of white blood cells will be higher than the pre-workout number. Of course, a number of factors play apart in this reaction, such as how hard you worked. Over time, exercise will benefit your immune system

However, sometimes it can have the opposite effect. Research appears to show that the optimal number of miles to run a week is 30. This may seem a lot for beginners, but remember running and distance will help improve your immune system. Runners who ran 60 miles a week in the study had twice as many illnesses a year as those who ran 30. An interesting study on marathon training showed that 12% of runners who ran the marathon got ill, however, only 2% of those who didn't run the marathon, but trained for it got ill. The marathon racers showed a 30-40% decrease in immune system activity straight after the race, so take care after a long hard workout.

I wouldn't advise running when your sick, however some runners believe that it is safe to run when all the symptoms are contained to above the neck - for instance a head cold. If you have a chesty cough or infection, you shouldn't run at all until you have fully recovered. If I have a sore throat, I generally run and get away with it. If you run one day and feel worse the next, stop running until you have recovered otherwise you could be out for even longer. Running while ill is down to your own discretion. If you do run while ill, take it easy and avoid speedwork.

As mentioned in the last paragraph, if there is no daily improvement in your health, do not run. If you have doubts about whether you should run, don't - relapses can occur. Do not do speed training until you have fully recovered. Unfortunately, illness or injury can mean starting all over again on reduced mileage. If you have longer than a week off I would recommend returning to running on reduced mileage.

Different illness will effect us and our running different ways, as will medication we take for the illness (please see my HubPages article entitled The dangers of taking medication and running). In coming articles I will be describing specific illness and there effect on running while battling the illness and after recovering from it. Please feel free to leave any comments about specific illness you may be interested in, and/or questions about running with illness you may have.


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