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A Not-So-Typical Workout Wednesday

In honor of this week’s Workout Wednesday, I’ll be….resting.

Why? Because despite all my efforts to take extra care of myself these past couple of weeks filled with travel, extra long  hours at the office and virtually zero days off, my body had enough and I came down with a cold. Now that I think about it, all the Yankees late-night playoff games probably served as the final straw in breaking down my immune system.

While my symptoms are mainly above the neck and I did get some cardio in after work on Monday, I could feel my body struggling even on the lower settings on the elliptical. When I finally got home, I was more tired than ever. So, it’s time for me to take a bit of my own advice and take it easy for a day or two. I’d rather be out of the game for a couple of days than risk running myself down even more and ending up with some sort of upper respiratory infection and then being sidelined for even longer.

Whether or not you’re feeling under the weather, rest is a crucial component to anyone’s health and fitness routine. If you don’t allow your body to rest and recover, you’re simply putting yourself at risk for overtraining. The following is a list of some of the symptoms of overtraining:

  • Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Amenorrhea (when a woman stops getting her monthly period)
  • Overuse or stress-related injuries (e.g. stress fractures, tennis elbow and runner’s knee)
  • Increased resting heart rate
  • Slower recovery of heart rate
  • Decrease in strength performance
  • Constant muscle pain or soreness when moving, bordering on pain

Avoiding these symptoms doesn’t have to be difficult. Just give yourself a break now and then! A rest day allows for muscular repair and recovery of the central nervous system. For those who can’t imagine even one day without activity, you can still take a leisurely walk or bike ride, or maybe you can substitute that strength or cardio class with an extra-long stretch session.

On the other hand, if you want to enjoy a rest day curled up on the couch in your kick-around clothes reading a good book or catching up with your DVR, go for it! Remember, taking a rest day doesn’t mean you’re being lazy. It only means you’re giving your body the strength to get back in the game so you can 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!

It’s-All-About-Me Monday

Self-Doubt? Knock It Out! Photo by Leslie Hassler

Welcome to another Monday and a new shot of motivation to kick off the work week!

Today, I want to address one of the worst things we can do to ourselves when we make the decision to pursue a healthy lifestyle and start exercising. Do NOT waste your energy comparing yourself to others!

Whether you’re out for a power walk, sweating it out on the elliptical, lifting weights or taking a group exercise class, you should be working out at a pace that feels good for you. The reality is there will always be someone who can walk or run faster, lift more or be more graceful at Zumba than you. Who cares?

I’m still working on getting over my own insecurities. While my love affair with fitness dates back to my childhood, I got certified in the fitness industry “late” in life. Many of my new fitness friends have been personal training or teaching group exercise classes since the days I started my journalism career. That’s about 15 years ago. Others got certified at the same time I did, but they’re 10 years younger. They recover from some of the tougher workouts more quickly than I do at the age of 38. Comparing myself to any of these peers is pointless. Instead of feeling inadequate about my capabilities, I’ve decided it’s much more productive to turn to these fitness friends for motivation and information on everything from human movement science to exercise program design.

So, stop comparing yourself to that “ripped” girl or guy on the machine next to you. Focus on yourself. Do what you can, as best as you can and remember, you’ve made exercise a part of your life to make your heart healthier, your body happier and your mind a little saner.

Sometimes, we all need a reminder on why it’s important to be our biggest cheerleader when it comes to following through on the plan to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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