On this Motivation Monday, I send my usual shot of encouragement to all of you who are still busy crushing those healthy living goals for 2018. However, since I also know at least a dozen people battling nasty colds or the flu, I’m also sending lots of get well wishes to anyone who’s been sidelined by a bug. Since my neighborhood has joined the ranks of others around the country registering very high on the Weather.com “Sick Score” on a daily basis, I know I’m talking about a lot of people.
Whether waiting in line at the grocery store, sitting in Church for Sunday Mass or clocking some miles on the elliptical machine, I’ve been surrounded by people sneezing and coughing at all different levels of ferocity. So I thought this was the perfect time to remind everyone of one move that can play a huge part in protecting you against picking up someone else’s germs and getting sick: wash those hands!
Sure, I’ll be the first to encourage exercise as a natural immunity booster, especially at this time of year. Working out is also a great way to improve your mood and beat the dreaded winter blues. But let’s face it: as much as I love going to the gym, it is one of the dirtiest places you can hang out. Since not everyone wipes their sweat and grime from machines or mats as they make their way around the floor, washing your hands could be the smartest move you make before walking out the door. If you’re taking the time to meticulously count your reps, time those Tabatas and monitor your heart rate, you owe it to yourself to add one or two minutes to the end of your workout with a quick but effective clean up. Consider it part of your cool down.
Here’s the official reminder from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how to effectively wash your hands:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
During your workout – and anytime really – do your best to avoid touching your eyes and nose. They are easy gateways for germs to pass through and take over your body. Finally, if you do get sick, click here for a few reminders on when it’s time to consider an extra rest day so you don’t spread your germs to the rest of your fitness friends.
Remember, armed with some basic hygiene and common sense, we can all navigate our way through another cold and flu season and stay on track with all those plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
I don’t understand the science behind it, but I do know every year the change of seasons brings a rise in the number of people I hear coughing and sneezing everywhere from the gym to the grocery store. So on this Motivation Monday, I offer some timely reminders about when it’s time to consider skipping a workout to beat a bug and prevent spreading your germs to your fellow fitness friends, too.
I like to follow what The American College of Sports Medicine calls 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. In fact, a light workout can help to boost your immune system. 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.
No matter what the season or how you’re feeling, here’s the one thing everyone should do before leaving the gym: take two to three extra minutes at the end your workout to head to the restroom and wash your hands! Getting rid of the sweat and grime before you touch your eyes or face is a surefire way to keep other people’s germs from getting into your system. Sometimes all we need is a little common sense and some soap and water to keep us on track with our plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!