Once, when I felt a cold coming on, I decided to run the 16-miler I had scheduled for the day. It went fine... no coughing, sneezing, or anything besides a slight burn when I breathed too deeply. Plus, I had sequestered myself to a corner of the gym. I think it was a wise choice not to skip the run. And if I don't feel any worse, I am going to do my scheduled run today. If it escalates, then I am not going to make some poor attempt at a workout and infect everyone else.
I hate to sound like an all-or-nothing person, but if you're too sick to pull yourself together for even the elliptical (not that I'm dissing the elliptical because it is good cross training), you shouldn't be working out at all. Germ spreader. I think I get so upset by them because I rarely ever infect others, even though I always (and I mean that) went to school no matter how bad I felt. Most recently was when I was a sophomore in college, and my roommates got a pre-cold because I was really sick. Keep in mind we were all studying for midterms for half the day in a stuffy (one of them never liked the windows open), sardine-can triple dorm room. And I warned them.
Anyway, here is what Running Times had to say about running while sick:
Ask the Coaches: Training/Racing While Sick
January 1, 2004
Q: I know that you feed a cold and starve a fever, but what about training and racing when I'm sick?
A: There are a number of studies that show a decrease in immune function secondary to intensive training, increasing an athlete's susceptibility to infection. Overtraining certainly increases this risk.
If you feel too ill to work out, don't. If you are running a fever, you should also not work out; this could increase the risk of the infection affecting the heart.
Dr. Randy Eichner recommends the "neck check." If there is no fever and all of the symptoms are above the neck—congestion, sore throat, etc.—then an easy workout would be OK. If symptoms are below the neck—significant cough, muscle aches, etc.—then a day off is in order. Pushing too hard may prolong the course of the illness and increase the potential for complications.
If you pass the neck check and your temperature is normal, you might consider racing, but your performance may not be up to par. Pushing the pace may also cause protracted illness. This can sometimes cause symptoms similar to chronic fatigue syndrome, negatively impacting your training for a prolonged period of time.
To keep from getting sick, start with regular hand washing, eat a well balanced diet, and get plenty of sleep. During the winter, get a flu shot. Supplements may be helpful, but when considering taking any supplement, research it to make sure that significant side effects have not been reported.
--Dr. Cathy Fieseler
------see the article at: http://www.runningtimesmagazine.com/rt/articles/?c=62&id=4497