A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from March 23, 2013
“If you’re sick above the shoulders, run; below the shoulders, don’t run” (running adage)

A running adage says that it’s OK to run if someone is sick above the shoulders (such as a head cold or a runny nose), but that one should not run if the problem is below the shoulders (such as a chest cold or the flu). The advice has been cited in print since at least this 1997 post in rec.running:

“...  it’s generally safe to continue running with a cold above the shoulders (head cold, conjestion, runny nose, stuffed-up sinuses) but not with one below the shoulders (cough, rattle on breathing, pain in chest).”

A 2012 tweet added a rhyme—“In the chest, rest is best.”


Google Groups: rec.running
Newsgroups: rec.running
From: (Frank Pirrone)
Date: 1997/02/18
Subject: Re: Common Colds
(...)
I hope you get an answer more specific to your question, but let me share one small piece of medical advice, that is consistent with common sense - it’s generally safe to continue running with a cold above the shoulders (head cold, conjestion, runny nose, stuffed-up sinuses) but not with one below the shoulders (cough, rattle on breathing, pain in chest).  Certainly, intensity and duration are factors in both scenarios, as are other subjective concerns, but then that was your question.

Google Groups: rec.running
Newsgroups: rec.running
From: “Mark”
Date: Fri, 10 Aug 2001 12:40:53 GMT
Local: Fri, Aug 10 2001 7:40 am
Subject: Re: running with a cold?

The general rule I’ve heard and lived by, and this takes some discretion, is that if your ailment is below the shoulders don’t run, above the shoulders run. Basically chest colds, stomach flu, etc.. don’t run. I general sniffling cold, headache etc.. can be run on.

SlowTwitch.com
Tri-Wog StL
Oct 19, 04 9:03
Re: 1/2 IM with a sinus infection ?
(...)
I would say you should go by the old rule of exercising when you are sick - “above the shoulders, O.K.; below the shoulders, probably not a good idea; fever, NO GO!”

Papa Bear’s Marathan “Maniac” Training
SATURDAY, AUGUST 04, 2007
Yesterday is a Long Way From Today
(...)
COMMENTS
Backofpack said…
Hope you feel better soon. You know what they say, don’t you? They say “if it’s above the shoulders, run, if it’s below the shoulders, rest”. As one who has often failed to take “they’s” advice, I’ll tell you that running when it’s below the shoulders hurts!
3:21 PM

Running Mania
running when sick
by ultraslacker » Sat Oct 04, 2008 3:36 pm
I have run during colds with no problem. They say the rule of thumb is that if you’re sick above the shoulders, run. If you’re sick below the shoulders (ie, chest cold or flu) then don’t run.

Calorie Count
Apr 24 2009
13:16 (UTC)
1935/2000 so nice to finally be able to run pain free. 2.6 mi this am and with no knee brace!

luleelu: that’s a good idea. I saw a sports dr guideline comment about when to exercise that said if its above the shoulders, run, if its below the shoulders rest. Sounds like yours is defitinily below the shoulders. Don’t worry about the challenge. The goal is to stay healthy.

Montana Memoirs
Room for Improvement
This entry was posted on Thursday, October 7th, 2010 at 9:30 pm
(...)
Little research has been done on the subject of exercising while sick. The little research that exists all points to the same thing: If you’re sick above the shoulders, it’s OK to hit the gym (think head cold). If you’re sick below the shoulders, stay home and rest up (think chest cold or flu). And if you have a fever, working out will only make you sicker.

Twitter
Beth Mazur ‏@BethMazur 2 Feb 12
@YoniFreedhoff I heard exercise okay if you’re sick above the shoulders (e.g., head cold). In the chest, rest is best. But what do I know wink
8:30 AM - 2 Feb 12

Twitter
Laura Kline ‏@LauraJKline 29 Jan
@PaulStoltzfus above the shoulders, run through it. Below the shoulders, no running!
4:53 AM - 29 Jan 13

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityExercise/Running/Health Clubs • Saturday, March 23, 2013 • Permalink