I think it was about a month ago when I heard the first news stories telling allergy sufferers like me to brace for a killer season. The never-ending brutal winter kept the trees and other spring blooms dormant for a lot longer than usual, and then about two weeks ago – BAM! Everything exploded. Now, tree pollen seems to fall like rain, turning cars of every color a bright green shade while lawnmowers can be heard firing up in the ‘burbs to cut the newly awakened grass.
So I thought this Motivation Monday presented the perfect opportunity to offer some tips on how to prevent allergy season from sidelining your long-awaited outdoor workout plans for spring. Here are a few tricks that help me keep the itchy eyes, sneezing and that uncomfortable sensation of having cotton stuck in my throat to a minimum:
- Mind the Time: Pollen counts tend to be highest between 5 am and 10 am. Unfortunately, that’s when many people enjoy their get-the-day-started jog, bike ride or walk. If you can move the activity to a time that’s not so pollen-heavy, great. If not, hopefully some of the following tips will help.
- Wear sunglasses: You can create at least a minimal barrier for your eyes by wearing sunglasses (or even goggles) if you plan to exercise outdoors for a long period of time. Using eye drops before you head outside can help, too.
- Don’t forget your meds: I got allergy shots for several years when I was a kid. They helped make my acute reactions less severe over time, but I still battle through hay fever season every year. Today there are so many over-the-counter and prescription allergy medicines that can offer relief. (Important note: I don’t like to take a lot of medicine, but as far as I’m concerned, I’d rather take something for a few months that will keep me from scratching my eyes out!) Talk to your doctor about what treatments might work best to alleviate your symptoms. To prevent the onset of those symptoms, it helps to take your medication an hour before your outdoor workout. If you get out of bed and head outdoors immediately, ask your doctor if you can take your medication before bed so it’s in your system when you head outside.
- Clean up: Get out of those sweaty and pollen-infused clothes, take a shower and wash your hair as soon as possible following an outdoor workout. The longer that pollen lingers, the more severe your reaction can be. (You also don’t want to spread the pollen around your home by sitting on the couch or lying on your bed.)
Probably the best advice I can offer is this: listen to your body. If you’re trying to get your heart rate up outdoors but all you’re feeling is misery, be smart. Stop. Head indoors, shower and re-group. Maybe that’s the day you sign up for an indoor air-conditioned group exercise class or bang out a Tabata derby at home to keep you sneeze-free on your quest to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Well, this Halloween is one filled with more tricks than we’d like here in the Northeast. Let me start by saying thank you to all of you who sent emails, Facebook messages or tweets checking up on me here in New York following the storm that made history.
I’m happy to report I’m safe and sound in Manhattan. My parents who live on Long Island also made it through okay, although they’re facing an uncertain timetable for when they may get their power and phone lines restored. They lost several trees on their property, however, none damaged the house. My heart and prayers go out to those people who did lose loved ones or all of their possessions to this epic storm. We face a difficult period of rebuilding ahead, but I know as other Americans have done following other episodes of Mother Nature’s wrath, we will band together and get through this.
Things are slowly getting back to normal in my neighborhood. While my office remains closed in Midtown, stores and shops in the Upper West Side are opening for business again. Today will probably mark the first time I can hit the gym since the weekend. It will be nice to get back on the elliptical and rowing machines, but again, considering there are so many people who lost more than a few days at the gym, I will be counting my blessings twice today.
One thing I realized while I was cooped up in my cozy apartment watching the latest weather updates and live reports from the area, you truly don’t need a lot of space to burn some calories and break a sweat. Thanks to a yoga mat, two 15-pound free dumbbells, one resistance band and one foam roller, I was able to burn off some of my nervous energy along with a few of the calories I consumed from the red wine, mini dark chocolate – peanut butter cups and other storm essentials I stocked up on before Sandy arrived. Tabata Derbys became my workout of choice, usually while the TV was on tuned into the latest Sandy coverage.
Reminder on the Tabata formula: eight continuous intervals of 20 seconds of maximum intensity followed by 10 seconds of rest. You create a “Tabata Derby” by adding consecutive four-minute intervals and work your way up to a 20-minute total Tabata workout. Two important notes if you move ahead with building a derby:
- If you do more than one Tabata – you must rest for 60 seconds before moving on to the next exercise.
- While the idea is to push out as many reps as possible in the 20-second work period, you shouldn’t sacrifice good form. Better to do “perfect” push-ups on your knees with your stomach drawn-in and glutes squeezed nice and tight than risk injuring your lower back with sloppy reps.
My Tabata Derby broke down like this:
- Resistance band bicep curls
- Side planks
On Monday, I followed the 20-minute derby with a 45-minute Zumba workout following the program from my Zumba Fitness Exhilerate DVD collection.
Now that the storm has passed and we work on rebuilding our neighborhoods and lives, I end with a word of encouragement for those who will be dealing with the aftermath for many days ahead. Know that you are not alone in your struggle and know that you WILL get back to your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!