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To Workout or Not to Workout…

coldThe inspiration for this Motivation Monday message came to me at Church. Everyone sitting around me at Sunday morning’s family Mass was either sneezing or coughing, especially the kids. When I got home, I washed my hands and thought now’s as good a time as any to offer reminders about when to consider skipping the gym to help your body get over a bug and keep your fellow fitness friends from getting sick, too.

The American College of Sports Medicine has outlined what you could call the “above/below-the-neck rule.” If your symptoms include the sniffles, runny nose and scratchy throat, studies show mild-to-moderate exercise isn’t harmful.  This could include a low/moderate intensity cardio workout that almost constantly keeps your heart rate in a range between 60-80% of your maximum heart rate.  (Reminder: to calculate max heart rate: 220-your age)  However, ACSM recommends you skip the heavy weight training or high-intensity cardio until you do beat your cold. Working out at too high an intensity when you’re fighting a bug puts extra stress on the body and can further compromise the immune system.

If you’re able to exercise and head to a gym, do your fellow gym members a favor. Wipe down any equipment you use with the anti-bacterial spray that’s sure to be made available by the facility. It’s just common courtesy!

As for the below-the-neck “stuff”: If you’re suffering from stomach issues including vomiting or diarrhea, or have a severe cough or fever, do everyone a favor and take a break from exercise until whatever’s ailing you has run its course. Also, if you’re knocked out by a serious bug for several days, remember to take it easy on your first day back in action. There’s a good chance you’ll be slightly dehydrated and feeling fatigued, so don’t jump out of bed and rush to your highest-intensity bootcamp class the minute your fever breaks.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: listen to your body! It’s true that one the benefits of exercise is that it boosts the immune system. However, what’s also true is that depending on what’s going on in your life, your body may need an extra hour of sleep one morning more than it needs to be pushed to the max at a kickboxing class.

Remember, a minimum of one day of rest each week is important, but when you’re sick, you may need two or more. Don’t sweat it. Just rest up, drink your fluids and before you know it, you’ll be back on your feet and back on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

A Not-So-Feel Good Friday?

Everywhere I’ve been this week – the office, the gym, the grocery store – I’ve found people sneezing, coughing and simply battling some kind of change-of-seasons cold. I’m actually struggling to keep the sniffles and sore throat at bay thanks to a recent “attack” by some of the top healthy-immune-system busters:

  • Mental stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Poor nutrition

So, I thought it was the perfect time to go over some of the general “rules” for modifying your fitness routine when you’re feeling under the weather.

The American College of Sports Medicine has outlined what you could call the “above/below-the-neck rule.” If your symptoms include the sniffles, runny nose and scratchy throat, studies show mild-to-moderate exercise isn’t harmful.  This could include a low/moderate intensity cardio workout that almost constantly keeps your heart rate in a range between 60-80% of your maximum heart rate.  (Reminder: to calculate max heart rate: 220-your age)  However, ACSM recommends you skip the heavy weight training or high-intensity cardio until you do beat your cold. Working out at too high an intensity when you’re fighting a bug puts extra stress on the body and can further compromise the immune system.

If you’re able to exercise and head to a gym, do your fellow gym members a favor. Wipe down any equipment you use with the anti-bacterial spray that’s sure to be made available by the facility. It’s just common courtesy!

As for the below-the-neck “stuff”: If you’re suffering from stomach issues including vomiting or diarrhea, or have a severe cough or fever, take a break from exercise until whatever’s ailing you has run its course. Also, if you’re knocked out by a serious bug for several days, remember to take it easy on your first day back in action. Your body could be recovering from mild dehydration and overall fatigue, so don’t jump out of bed and rush to your highest-intensity group exercise class the minute your fever breaks.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: listen to your body! It’s true that one the benefits of exercise is that it boosts the immune system. However, what’s also true is that depending on what’s going on in your life, your body may need an extra hour of sleep one morning more than it needs to be pushed to the max at a kickboxing class.

Remember, a minimum of one day of rest each week is important, but when you’re sick, you may need two or more. Don’t sweat it. Just rest up, drink your fluids and before you know it, you’ll be back on your feet and back on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Friday’s Food For Thought: The Liquid Edition

Welcome to June!

We’ve had some warm and sticky weather here in New York City since the Memorial Day weekend, so I thought it was the perfect time to remind everyone about the importance of staying hydrated.

I often talk about the fact that the human body is an amazing machine, but it’s important to remember that machine is made up of two-thirds water. Like anything else, if you want the body to keep running properly, you need to give it what it needs.

Here are some of the benefits of staying hydrated:

  • Regulation of body temperature
  • Alleviating fluid retention
  • Distribution of nutrients and oxygen to cells and organs
  • Improvement of metabolic function
  • Decreasing appetite

I’m still waiting to feel the effects of that last bullet point. I do my best to drink the recommended 5-7 glasses of water each day, but I don’t know how much effect it’s had on my overall appetite. (I love to eat!) However, I admit if I’m hungry and nowhere near a healthy snack, drinking a glass of water can stave off my hunger just long enough to avoid eating something I’ll regret later. (Chewing gum works in a pinch, too.)

Now let’s look at some of the physiologic effects of what happens when you don’t consume enough water and become dehydrated:

  • Decreased blood volume
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased core temperature
  • Sodium retention
  • Decreased sweat rate

Think of it this way: the body can go for a long period of time without food, but can only survive for a few days without water.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) offers the following guidelines for drinking water when exercising:

  • Drink 16 oz of water two hours before exercise. In warmer weather, you can add an additional 8 – 16 oz.
  • During exercise, drink 20 to 40 oz for every hour of exercise.
  • If you exercise for more than 60 minutes, you can re-hydrate with a sports drink containing up to 8% carbohydrate to replace both fluid and dwindling muscle glycogen stores.
  • When exercising for 60 minutes or less, water is best. (My personal choice).

Here’s how I rationalize that last point: If I’m pressed for time and can only squeeze in a 30-minute elliptical session, I’ll burn up to 340 calories. During that time, if I guzzle a sports drink like Gatorade or Vitamin Water, I’ll consume 125 calories.  So I walk away from a shorter than normal workout, and I’ve only burned 215 calories. That is not the post-cardio high I was looking for!

I realize some people simply can’t stand the blandness of water and need a little flavor. Luckily, there are lots of  zero-calorie flavored water options available. Remember, having a flavored drink with zero calories (or 5 calories if you add one of those flavor-crystal packets to your water bottle) is better than NOT drinking anything at all.

In the end, raising a water bottle to your health is an easy way to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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