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Returning to running post-illness
Returning to running post-illness

If you're unlucky enough to be ill or have a cold recently, make sure to give your body enough time to recover and return to running safely

Steph avatar
Written by Steph
Updated over a week ago

The contents of our support articles, such as text, videos, images, are for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Check with a doctor in addition to using our support articles and before making any medical decisions.

In this article, we're going to walk you through the six steps to give your body a chance to recover and return to running safely. It is important to note that everyone's needs are different so please use this as a guide. This guide is referring to recovering from a common cold. We hope you bounce back post illness!

1. Rest

If you want to shake your cold quickly, then rest is key to allow your cardiovascular system to properly recover. If we keep pushing through training and checking to see how we feel when running, we are potentially delaying this recovery and prolonging the illness. Listen to your body and don't be afraid to skip training sessions; this will be better in the long run (pun intended)! Typically we would advise 5-10 days of rest but this will depend on how you are feeling! Before attempting any running, make sure you can go about your daily activities with no breathlessness.

2. Low-level activity

If you are feeling symptoms below the chest, then we would recommend resting a bit more, but when you are feeling ready to train again start off with 15 minutes of easy running. To make sure you aren't pushing it too hard, then we recommend working off your Max Heart Rate, providing you are wearing a heart rate monitor. You can calculate your maximum heart rate as (220 - your age). E.g., if you were 40 years old, your maximum heart rate would be 180 bpm. During your low-level activity, ensure that you are keeping your heart rate to less than 70% of its maximum. If you do not have a heart rate monitor, then you can also use RPE (rate of perceived exertion). We use a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being resting and 10 being max effort that cannot be sustained for very long. Keep the effort of your run to a 5 out of 10.

3. Increasing your exercise

a. 30 minutes at 80%

Next, move on to 30 minutes of running, keeping your heart rate below 80% of its maximum or RPE below a 6/10. Don't be disheartened if your pace is slow - you have just recovered from an illness and need to ease your body and cardiovascular system back into it. Depending on how much time you had off, you will feel a bit rusty, but it will come back quickly!

b. 45 minutes at 80%

Progress upwards to 45 minutes of running (or for as long as you can), keeping your heart rate below 80% of its maximum. Make sure you monitor your response to each exercise - if you feel the next day that your HR is higher than normal, or you are feeling fatigued, give yourself an extra days rest before moving onto the next stage

4. Returning to normal

Finally, reach 60 minutes of running (or for as long as you can), at no more than 80% of your maximum heart rate. Ideally, try to achieve this run twice before you go back into your running plan. Ensure you don't try and do too much too soon as this will lead to further fatigue and hinder your progress.

5. Back into your running plan

It is time to return to your Runna Plan but be mindful that you might have lost some fitness so feel free to drop the number of runs per week, or your running ability, from within the Runna app so that your plan can adapt accordingly.

6. Returning to races

We'd recommend starting back from the last week that you didn't fully complete. However, if you have a fixed deadline (e.g., a race), chat to us in-app and we can advise you on how best to proceed.

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