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Feel-Good Friday

istock_000015612296smallIt seems everywhere I turn here in New York City, people are coughing and sneezing. On the subway, at the deli where I get my morning jolt of caffeine, in my office and oh yes, at the gym.

I was one of these people on Monday, but I’m happy to report at the end of the work week, I am back at 100 percent. This is the first time in forever I can remember winning the battle against a bug so quickly. I’m convinced it’s because I did the one thing that’s nearly impossible for so many of us to do in our ultra-busy lives: I listened to my body.

Monday morning, I woke up with a scratchy throat, a severe case of the sniffles and a few chills. I never really woke up all day. I went to Walgreens, picked up my first bottle of  Zicam® and started popping the dissolvable tablets every four hours. I also doubled my normal water intake. Then at quitting time, even though it was Motivation Monday, I made the difficult decision to skip the gym. Instead, I went directly home after work, took a hot shower, made some hot soup and crashed on the couch. I even backed off on my social media chatter.

To my pleasant surprise, I woke up on Tuesday feeling much better. I continued the regimen of Zicam, water and more clementines than usual. I did go to my Tuesday night strength class, but lessened my weight load just a bit. By Wednesday I felt strong enough to make it to a high-intensity group exercise class, where I’m pretty sure I sweat out whatever germs were still in my system. As I sit here writing on Thursday, I feel like I’m back in fighting form!

I realize we can’t always beat a bug and I’ve heard all the reports about the severity of this season’s flu virus.  My hope is that this post reminds everyone about the importance of listening to your body when it needs a break. Yes, we all have daily responsibilities, but there are times when you just have to say “no” or take a rain check on that extra activity on your to-do list. As a fitness junkie, I know how hard it is to back off from the endorphin rush sometimes. However, I hope this post shows the power of taking just one day off when it comes to staying on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

The Best Laid Plans

We made it to the end of the first work week in 2012!  If you got a good jump-start on turning your fitness and other personal goals into a reality – good for you! If you didn’t –  you’re in good company!

I woke up New Year’s Day with the sniffles. Somewhere between midnight and six a-m on Tuesday – my first day back at work after a 10-day vacation- those sniffles turned into a nasty cold complete with head-pounding congestion, burning eyes and a cough. I made it to work, only to leave early and then stayed home yesterday to avoid spreading any more germs to my co-workers. The good news is I’m finally feeling human again and have no doubt I’ll have this cold kicked by the time I go to my day-long Zumba Fitness instructor training course on Saturday. The bad news is I haven’t been to the gym for a workout since Sunday, and many of the items on this week’s to-do list remain undone.  All my Type A personality can do at this point is take several deep breaths, make a new to-do list and remember every so often, things happen that mess up even the best laid plans.

Since a lot of people (at least the ones here in New York) seem to be fighting what I’m calling the New-Year’s-Cold Bug, I thought it was a good time to offer a refresher course on the “rules” about exercising when you’re sick. Click here to read an “oldie but goodie” from the LauraLovesFitness archives.

Based on my symptoms, I could have tried to go to the gym during the last few days. However, I followed what I consider to be one of the cardinal rules of fitness: I listened to my body. It told me to rest, so I did. Now I’m back at 85% percent and I have no doubt that with some more rest tonight, I’ll be at nearly 95% tomorrow. By Saturday, I’ll be ready to rock that Zumba class!

Next week, I’ll tackle my cardio, weight training and favorite group exercise class with new energy. I plan on putting that same energy toward crossing the items off a slightly bigger to-do list. When plans go awry, it helps to remember you will eventually be back on your feet and back on track to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Should I Exercise When I’m Sick?

One of the benefits of exercise is that it boosts your immune system.  However, even the biggest fitness fanatics can get sick now and then thanks to a laundry list of reasons including:

  • Mental stress

  • Lack of sleep

  • Poor nutrition

For me, when I have a series of days filled with 5-am call times, outdoor shoots in cold or hot weather, tight deadlines, a too-full social calendar and not enough sleep, I can actually feel my body getting rundown.  Sure enough, I am heading into this weekend battling the classic symptoms of a common cold – a sore throat, serious head congestion and fatigue. So, I figured it was the perfect time to tackle the question of whether it’s good or bad to workout when you’re sick.

The American College of Sports Medicine has outlined what you could call the “above/below-the-neck rule.” If your symptoms are like mine, studies show mild-to-moderate exercise isn’t harmful.  This could include low/moderate intensity cardio, which is a cardiovascular workout that almost constantly keeps your heart rate in a range that is 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.

One note if you are able to exercise and you head to a gym: do your fellow gym members a favor and 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 rule: If you have stomach issues that include vomiting, diarrhea, a severe cough or a fever, ACSM says you should 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 back to your highest-intensity cardio class as soon as your fever breaks.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: listen to your body! This morning, I planned to get in a pre-work workout because of after-work plans, but when my alarm went off, I was simply too tired and too achey to get out of bed. Instead, I added a couple of extra blocks to my walk to work by going to a different place to get my morning coffee.  I truly believe getting that extra hour of sleep will help me beat this bug faster than if I had pushed myself too hard.

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

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