Should you run if you’re coughing?

Silas and I both have a cough.

I think I’ve Googled some version of this question about 800 times.

“Should you run if you’re sick or coughing?”

Most runners will tell you a general rule of thumb is to avoid running if you feel symptoms below your neck. So if you’re congested in your sinuses, it’s fine. If your chest is wheezing or your body aches, take a break.

Well I have been hacking up a lung for a week now and I’m tired of waiting. I’m antsy. I feel lazy. And I’ve probably gained five pounds.

So this morning I hopped (or, lumbered) onto the treadmill to see how two miles felt.

It was hard. My legs felt heavy and my throat was dry. Within seconds I was coughing so much my stomach muscles hurt. But I sipped water and kept going.

I know I’m not alone here. How do other runners handle this situation? I physically feel fine but the remnants of an ugly cold are lingering and I can’t seem to shake this cough.

It’s hard to run while coughing. But I want to run and I’m worried about falling behind on my training.

Three years ago, I totally ignored a chest cough, continued to run vigorously and ended up with bronchitis. I’d like to think I’m past the point of this turning into an infection, but I don’t want to risk it either.

Some medical experts suggest “no running for three days,” according to Runner’s World. Running and exercise can stress a sinus infection, leading to pneumonia, even without the presence of a fever. Another study has shown that running with a head cold doesn’t compromise performance. In fact, it maintains fitness and psychological well-being.

For now, my plan is to gradually get back to where I was in my training.

Last week’s plan of a 3, 4 and 5-mile weekday runs followed by a 12-mile long run flew out the window. All I got in was a 4 km run.

And this week is looking no better. However, after running two miles today, my plan is to run 3 miles tomorrow, followed by 4 miles on Friday, rest Saturday then long run on Sunday. Although my plan calls for 15 miles (unprecedented!) I’m *hoping* to eek out 12 miles.

What do you think? Advice welcome.


Published by

April C

Writer, editor and mom in Saint John, NB.

6 thoughts on “Should you run if you’re coughing?”

  1. I tend to run thru sickness and colds, but if your coughing while you run that may be a little more severe than a mild cold. Sometimes running can clear your sinus symptoms but if you can’t stop coughing during the run you might need to back off until well! You can cross train something that is a little less of an irritant for your cough (resistance training for example) in the meantime-maybe?

  2. I did walks only and increased the distance until I felt my lungs had mostly recovered. My rule of thumb was if I was breathing somewhat heavily after a 2-4 k walk I probably shouldn’t be running again yet 🙂

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