How to Return to Running After the Cold or Flu

February 14, 2024

Nick Hancock
A woman running on a misty morning on the grass.

Returning to running after recovering from a cold or flu is a common desire for many avid runners. However, it's crucial to approach this comeback with caution and patience, especially if you've experienced significant illnesses or respiratory infections.

Rushing back into intense physical activity too soon can pose risks to your health and prolong your recovery process.

In this article, we'll discuss why it's important to ease back into running after illness and explore the potential risks of returning to running too quickly post-cold or flu.

How Long after a Cold Can You Run?

After recovering from a cold, it's essential to listen to your body and gradually ease back into your running routine. While you may feel eager to lace up your running shoes, it's crucial to give yourself time to fully recover.

Depending on the severity of your illness, it may take a few weeks before you can comfortably return to your usual intensity and duration of running.

Patience is key during this period of recovery to avoid setbacks and ensure a smooth transition back to your regular running routine.

A man jogging on a road in a vast field after recovering from cold.

How to Get Back to Running Post-Cold or Flu?

1. Listen to Your Body

Listening to your body is crucial when returning to running after illness. Pay close attention to how you feel physically and mentally during and after your workouts. If you experience any issues like muscle aches, sore throat, or feeling tired, it's important to take a step back and allow yourself more time to recover.

Start your runs at a slow and comfortable pace, focusing on how your body responds. Gradually increase the intensity and duration of your runs as you start feeling stronger and more energetic. Ensure you get enough sleep to support your body's recovery process.

Pushing yourself too hard too soon after battling flu symptoms can prolong your recovery and increase the risk of setbacks. By starting slow and listening to your body's signals, you can safely ease back into running and minimize the risk of re-injury or illness.

2. Assess Your Health

Before resuming running after illness, it's essential to assess your health to ensure you're ready to hit the track safely.

Pay attention to any lingering symptoms, such as coughing, congestion, fatigue, or body aches, as these may indicate that your body is still recovering. Additionally, consider your overall health and energy levels.

If you feel tired, weak, or unwell, it may be best to postpone your run until you're feeling better. If you're unsure whether you're ready to return to running, it's always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional or a certified coach. They can provide personalized guidance based on your individual circumstances and help you make an informed decision about when to resume your running routine after a break.

A woman running on a dirt road at sunset.

3. Start with Light Exercise

When returning to running after recovering from a cold or flu, it's important to ease back into exercise gradually, considering your body's readiness.

Here are a few gentle activities you can begin with before diving into a rigorous running regimen:

  • Walking: Start with brisk walking for short durations. Gradually increase the pace and duration as your body feels stronger.
  • Gentle Stretching: Perform simple stretching exercises targeting major muscle groups to improve flexibility and range of motion.
  • Yoga: Practice gentle yoga poses focusing on relaxation, flexibility, and balance. Choose beginner-friendly routines that are not overly strenuous.
  • Swimming: If available, consider swimming or water aerobics as they provide a full-body workout with minimal impact on joints.
  • Cycling: Take short bike rides at a leisurely pace to gradually build cardiovascular endurance and leg strength.
  • Resistance Band Exercises: Use resistance bands to perform gentle strength-training exercises targeting different muscle groups.

These low-impact exercises help you adjust to training again and avoid the strain of strenuous exercise too soon. Additionally, incorporating a structured training plan ensures a systematic approach to rebuilding stamina and avoiding overexertion.

By giving your body time to adjust and avoiding strenuous exercise initially, you can minimize the risk of setbacks and ensure a smoother recovery journey.

4. Set Realistic Goals

When returning to running after battling a cold or flu, setting realistic goals is essential for a successful comeback, especially considering the recovery period, which may span several weeks.

Consider your current fitness level and recovery progress when planning your objectives. Instead of immediately trying to resume your normal routine or cover long distances, start with shorter runs and gradually increase your mileage.

Focusing on achievable goals like starting exercising again and gradually extending your distance will lead to a successful return. Celebrate each milestone along your recovery journey, ensuring patience and consistency as you rebuild your strength and endurance.

A woman getting ready to do Yoga early in the morning.

5. Hydrate and Eat Well

Proper hydration and nutrition are vital for aiding recovery and sustaining energy levels as you return to running after illness, including the common cold. Ensure you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day, especially before, during, and after your workouts.

Maintaining a balanced diet comprising fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains provides essential nutrients for your body's repair and replenishment. Incorporating foods high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, such as berries, leafy greens, and fatty fish, can support your immune system and reduce post-illness fatigue.

Additionally, prioritize consuming carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores and proteins to aid in muscle repair and recovery. Listening to your body's hunger and thirst cues is crucial for ensuring you fuel it adequately to optimize your running performance and overall well-being as you transition back to running after illness, promoting a healthy immune system along the way.

6. Prioritize Rest and Recovery

Rest and recovery are integral components of any training regimen, especially when returning to running after illness. Adequate rest allows your body to repair tissues, restore energy levels, and adapt to the stress of exercise.

It's essential to prioritize quality sleep by aiming for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted rest each night. Additionally, incorporate rest days into your running schedule to prevent overtraining and minimize the risk of setbacks.

On a rest day, focus on gentle activities like stretching, yoga, or leisurely walks to promote blood circulation and alleviate muscle soreness. Listen to your body's signals of fatigue or discomfort, and don't hesitate to adjust your training intensity or take extra rest if needed.

By prioritizing rest and recovery, you'll optimize your body's ability to adapt to the demands of running and reduce the likelihood of feeling tired, experiencing worsened symptoms, or needing to wait longer for recovery.

A man sprinting on a track with a stadium in the background.


In conclusion, returning to running after illness requires patience, caution, and self-awareness. Remember to listen to your body, start slow, and gradually increase intensity and duration. Prioritize hydration, nutrition, rest, and recovery to support your recovery journey and optimize your running performance.

If you're unsure about your readiness to return to running or need personalized guidance, don't hesitate to consult with a healthcare professional or a certified coach.

With the right approach and support, you'll soon be back on track, enjoying the many physical and mental benefits of running. Stay motivated, stay safe, and happy running!

Take your running to the next level with professional guidance from Maximum Mileage Coaching where our expert coaches provide personalized training and support to help you feel strong and healthy. Let us guide you toward your goals and ensure a smooth recovery journey.

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