Know your Body

Can you run with the flu or a cold?

The flu and the cold are some of the most common diseases and feared by athletes when winter begins, as this activity takes place outdoors and it is possible that sometimes we do not wear the right clothes or when we stop we cool down. Often we don’t realize it because of the heat we generate while we’re on the move.

The best attitude is to take precautions to prevent the flu or cold. In our case we have it easy, since one of the most effective ways to avoid it is to practice a sport like Running. The reason is very simple: white blood cells are activated by running and our immune system is boosted by movement and oxygenation.

But what if you think you have the flu, or you’ve already been diagnosed by your doctor? Is it advisable to run with the flu or a cold?

Differentiate between flu and cold

The first step is to know exactly our symptoms in order to be able to distinguish if we have a flu or a simple cold. Based on this diagnosis, we will be able to determine if it is advisable to run in this state.

Flu Symptoms

The flu is usually accompanied by head and neck pain, high fever, chest pain, back pain, occasional sneezing, joint pain and deep coughing with dense sputum.

Ill-treated flu can degenerate into pneumonia.

If you do get the flu, the best thing to do is to listen to your body, as I always insist.

  • If you don’t have fever and you want to go for a run you can probably do it, but it should be a light, soft and bearable workout and not much longer than about 45 minutes. Most of the time we disregard what our body wants to tell us and with it we put our health at risk.
  • With a fever we should never run, as the febrile state indicates that the flu is very advanced and at its most virulent stage. In extreme cases, exposing our body to physical exhaustion weakens the immune system, which can even affect our heart and leave us with after-effects of a heart disease, or even lead to a more serious picture of sudden death. This is the conclusion reached by Dr. Fernando Gutiérrez of the Centro Médico para el Deporte (CSD).

Another important aspect is knowing how to value and interpret what our body transmits to us, i.e. the symptoms. According to a study by American scientist Steffan Weidner:

  • If you suffer from neck pains up, exercise may even be advisable.
  • If you suffer from pain in the back and lungs, in the lumbar area or in the joints is better to rest.

You have to know how I said before to listen to the body and interpret correctly the messages it sends us. If we feel tired, sore, without energy, with a deep cough and without strength, don’t hesitate, don’t go running.

As you know, strenuous, high-intensity exercise reduces the efficiency of the immune system and therefore we are more prone to a worsening of the disease. On the contrary an exercise practiced in a prudent and moderate way in reverse to the previous case, can improve and strengthen our immune system. In the same line is Dr. K. Lazzoli, a physician specializing in sports medicine, who states emphatically that with fever it is prohibited to do sport.

Cold Symptoms

On the other hand, a cold entails occasional headaches, occasional low fever, occasional sore throat and chest, repeated sneezing, mild joint pains and difficulty breathing through the nose with large production of nasal mucus.

A badly treated cold can evolve into sinusitis.

If what we are suffering from is a simple cold or catarrh, we know that it is a virus that is more bearable and less dangerous than the flu virus. A cold is an infection that is more compatible with sports practice. Certainly no one is all right when they have a cold, but knowing how to carry it you can practice sport, yes, always with a softer pace both in intensity and duration.

Preventing the Flu and Cold

Here are a few tips to keep in mind to prevent the flu or simple colds and, this way, you do not have to reduce your training or racing for long periods of time.

Food & Beverage

  • Increase intake of “antioxidant” foods
  • Maintain as alkaline a diet as possible. Remember: all diseases are acidic, where there is oxygen and alkalinity there can be no disease (Otto Warburg)
  • Supplement the diet with food supplements: Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Vitamin A or with foods rich in these vitamins.

Three very effective remedies against the flu at food level by acting as true natural antibiotics are:

  • Garlic, taken raw as for example in salads, will bring us great benefits because its main components, allicin and allyl sulfide, will keep away from our body both microbes and viruses.
  • Onion, usually taken in salads or as a drink (cooking an onion in half a litre of water and then straining the liquid).
  • Lemon, taking it as a regular alkaline refreshing drink, as explained in this article.


Maintain a good level of hydration:

  • Drink natural isotonic drinks, without additives or refined sugars. I use diluted seawater at isotonic concentration.
  • Drink natural juices rich in vitamins. I advise you this homemade drink made from Chia seeds, rich in minerals, vitamins and amino acids.
  • Drinking alkaline water.
  • Drink thyme and eucalyptus infusions as soon as you begin to feel the first symptoms, as both are powerful disinfectants and expectorants. I also recommend this infusion with boldo, gordolobo and dandelion which helps respiratory function and eliminate toxins.


  • Use garments with technical fabrics, suitable for the time of year, in this case winter: breathable garments that expel sweat to prevent it from cooling on our bodies.
  • Wear garments that allow freedom of movement.
  • Protect the parts of the body most prone to cooling.
  • Try to breathe more through your nose so that the air gets warmer into your lungs.


  • As I’ve been telling you, if you have a fever, don’t train.
  • If you have a cold, reduce the intensity of the training,be moderate and cautious about the duration.
  • Go for a run when the temperatures are more pleasant.
  • Warm up and stretch for longer so your body reaches the right temperature and your muscles are elastic.
  • When you’re done running, get warm. Don’t let the sweat get cold on your body.
  • Get in the shower when your heart rate is back to normal.


Give yourself adequate rest and let your body regain its vitality. Remember, if you push it to the limit, your immune system will weaken.


Elite athletes also set a bad example and commit irresponsible acts, which, as we have seen many times, can have serious and even fatal consequences. He remembers the case of Gladys in the last Pan American Games who ran a marathon with the flu, managed to finish third, but he didn’t act responsibly and it’s not advisable to follow his example, much less us who are amateur runners.

What is your experience of running a cold? You can share it by leaving your comment below. Thank you very much!


Sources consulted: Planeta Running

About the author

Teodoro Vázquez

Como corredor desde 2007 llevo recorridos más de 43.000 km. De los cuales como corredor Minimalista Evolutivo 38.000 km., los últimos 27.000 km sin ninguna lesión a pesar de correr más de 5.000 km al año durante los últimos 5 años.

Leave a Comment