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In Sickness or in Health?

Should I Run When I Am Sick? Coach MK

"It's easy to go hard, it's hard to go smart."  - Erwan Le Corre

Hi again!

As I was dropping my kids off this morning I saw signs posted about super-fun kid things like "conjunctivitis" and "Foot and Mouth Disease", which inspired me to re-post the email I sent my runners in March when allergy season was in full force.  The wisdom is equally relevant in the winter!

Please remember, resting is a crucial part of training.  Know when to push, and know when to rest.  When in doubt, ask.  9 times out of 10 I'm going to tell you to rest.   It's easy to go hard, it's hard to go smart.


Coach Fleming


From March 23, 2015

Hi Colfaxers!

So sorry I had to dash on Saturday.  My 3yo daughter has had a persistent cough since November.  The frustrating thing about toddlers is that they are ALWAYS SICK and the doctors ALWAYS SAY: "we don't want to prescribe anything to compromise their immune systems, so give her Motrin for pain and fever and lots of hugs."  On Saturday morning my husband heard something different in her cough and rushed her to the hospital where we were told that she needed to be put on a steroid since her lungs were so inflamed.  The doctors also wanted to know why we waited so long, 4 months is a long time in the life of a 3 year old.  Of course, I felt like a horrible parent.  Of course, I'm not at all but I'm also not a doctor so it can be difficult to know when to worry (especially if your pediatrician has been telling you NOT to worry, silly woman).

Which got me to thinking about runners.  We never know when to worry and make some wildly inconsistent decisions.  We will find any excuse not to run on a day we don't feel 100% (I only slept 6 hours!  My dog had a headache!  I ate too much last night!) but when we really need to cut back, when our bodies are SCREAMING at us to CUT BACK OR I WILL FORCE YOU TO CUT BACK, we insist on pushing through (this almost always leads to injury, and we chalk it up to 'overuse' instead of 'blatant stupidity').  The worst part?  These are the times we don't tell anyone what's going on because we know how stupid we sound!  I had a trainee last year who had a stress fracture in her foot and didn't tell me because she knew I'd make her stop running and her race was 2 weeks away.  She ran her race on a broken foot, PRed by 25 minutes and qualified for Boston but won't be able to run because she needs foot surgery.  FOOT SURGERY.  She's out until at least 2017.

An old coach used to complain about this exact phenomenon: runners are compulsive liars with terribly inconsistent judgment when it comes to our exertion levels and health.  He always said we won't push ourselves hard enough on crucial speedwork and tempo days and complain about how we can't catch our breath then wake up with bronchitis on a Monday morning and decide to push through on an easy run that could totally be missed.  He gave us a set of rules that I still live by when it comes to running, and I wanted to share it with you now that allergies are coming in full force.

  1. You can run with sore muscles.  

  2. You can run HARD with sore muscles.

  3. You shouldn't run at all with sore ligaments or questionable tendons unless a PT clears you

  4. if you have a broken bone, don't run.

  5. if you think you have a broken bone, don't run until a doctor clears you.

  6. If you can't breathe well, then your lungs can't deliver oxygen well.  Run easy and watch your heart rate.  Time on your feet is what matters, not speed.

  7. If you are dehydrated, don't run.  

  8. If you threw up or had diarrhea after you woke up you are dehydrated.  Sleep is when your body repairs itself, and you need 8 solid hours of sleep for hydration recovery in between your last vomit/diarrhea session and your first run post.  

  9. Nothing is equal to 8 hours of sleep.  no sports drink can magically restore electrolyte balance immediately without sleep.  It can help, but not so much that you're ok to run.

  10. if your nose is running you can run.  

  11. if you can't breathe through your nose but your lungs are clear, you can run.

  12. if you get shooting or throbbing pains ANYWHERE, stop running and figure out what's wrong.  Foam roll PROPERLY, twice in 24 hours, then if you still hurt see Alex Lanton.

  13. If you have a fever but no other symptoms, you can run SLOWLY, watch heart rate and do not break 130 no matter what.  Fever is a sign of infection and your body needs oxygen to fight infection.  Be absolutely sure that you aren't hitting anaerobic levels by running extra super slowly, or worst case taking a walk.go easy on the ibuprofen.  it masks symptoms, which means you're hitting the mute button while you body is trying to tell you something.  This generally is a really bad idea.

Pain is your body's way of saying "stop".  You need to respect it.  Pushing through pain isn't a sign of strength, it's a sign of stubbornness and weakness and is very disrespectful.  Respect your body, respect the process!  WINTER IS COMING!


Coach Fleming

Coach MK Fleming is the founder of Fitness Protection, LLC where she coaches all kinds of runners for $30 per month and gives marathon plans away for free. Click here to download her Marathon Selection Guide!

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