Pushing through Illness and Injury: When to Exercise, When to Rest

Today is Friday. It has been one week since my last run, and I am getting restless.  The reason for the break in training is this: I have the chest congestion, headache, sore throat, body ache bug that seems to have plagued most of southern Oregon this season. I am out of the drowsy, cough syrup phase, however am not yet well enough to return to work. Or to RUN. This is the exhausting phase that generally makes one feel nutty, as you know you are not capable of carrying out your favorable tasks.

But, what about the grey area of injury and illness? What about those questionable symptoms which you are tempted to push through in order to stay consistent with a training schedule or other goal? Here are some recommendations for when to toughen up, and when to rest your body.




  1. Any Symptoms below the neck: REST

If you experience body ache, chest congestion, coughing, swelling in the lymph nodes (often masquerades as pain in the throat, armpits, and groin), then rest.  Besides your body receiving sub-optimal energy resourcing and oxygen, this may prolong illness

2.You have a fever: REST.

Most practitioners recommend maintaining body temperature below 101 degrees Fahrenheit. If your temperature is already high, exercise can take you up and over, posing a greater threat to your health.

3. Sniffles, headache, and minor cold: Proceed with Caution.

This is the grey area. Some studies show that exercise can help alleviate headaches, and the endorphins produced while exercising may make minor cold symptoms seem more bearable.  You may consider toning it down during this time, perhaps opting for yoga or simple stretches over high impact exercise, or indoor activity over outdoor. Don’t beat yourself up for taking a rest day.

 4. Swollen Joints: REST, ICE, Proceed with Caution

Depending on the cause of the swelling, you may need to see a medical professional to address this one. If you merely stepped off a curb improperly and ice and get the swelling back down within 48 hours, you are most likely ok to proceed. It is not recommended to exercise on a swollen joint that is not  responding to ice or over the counter anti-inflammatory medications. For generalized swelling after long runs or heavy lifting, lay on your back with your legs resting up against a well. Hold this position for approximately 15-20 minutes.

 5.  Pain on the outer side of your foot: REST, see a health care provider

If you experience severe pain at the mid-point of the outer aspect of your foot and having difficulty walking, then see a physician. This is a common point for fracture, and it’s best to rule this out rather than exacerbate it.

Image from http://www.drdavidricher.com

6. You have been diagnosed with a stress fracture by a health care professional: REST.

This one absolutely must be respected. It’s a tough one because all though it is painful, it is tempting to push through it because chances are you already have been for quite some time. Stress fractures absolutely require rest in order to heal.

This is not an exhaustive list, just a few major points. The “grey area” is tough because pain and illness can be subjective. Listen to your body, and remember that as frustrating as it is to rest, it saves longer breaks from activity in the future. Stay tuned for more injury prevention and remedy posts to come!


Make your day great,



About runningyourbody

I am a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), Certified Pilates instructor, and runner with celiac disease. I am passionate about educating people on running, pilates, and women’s health topics. I am trained in the treatment of pelvic floor dysfunction, as well as pre and post partum impairments. In my free time I can be found anywhere outside. I enjoy training for races with friends, cooking gluten free meals, and traveling with my husband. My goal is to share information with you in a lighthearted and enjoyable forum. I am always contributing fun and interesting posts on my blog. Feel free to check it out @ https://runningyourbody.wordpress.com/
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One Response to Pushing through Illness and Injury: When to Exercise, When to Rest

  1. Pingback: To run or not to run; When a cold tries to drag you down. | RunningYourBody

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