Workout Tips During Cold and Flu Season, Part 2

02/04/2013

In my last post, I discussed ways to workout and avoid getting sick in the process.  Now comes the tricky part.  What if you have a cold and still want to workout?  Are there creative ways to keep germs at bay if you workout with a cold?  Discerning the answer can be tough especially if you missed a few workouts and your clothes are starting to feel snug.  However, there are several things you can do to minimize cold symptoms and know when to take the day off. 

Scenario #1: You have a cold

Tip #1: Get extra rest.  This seems like a no-brainer but it bears mentioning first.  Rest is your first line of defense to fight a cold.  If you sleep an average of 7 hours a night add an additional 30 minutes of shut-eye until you get better.  The extra sleep will give your body time to fight and heal itself. 

Tip #2: Workout during off-peak hours.  As much as you like your early morning or late night workouts, working out during the busy hours can make your symptoms worse.  In this case, avoiding the crowded gym is a good call.  Be sure to keep your towel close by and place it on equipment label side down to keep one side germ-free.

Tip #3:  Lower your workout intensity.  Studies show that there are benefits to working out when you’re feeling under the weather; you increase the amount of oxygenated blood throughout your body, which allows your body to perform better and heal faster.  A little jolt is good for you but be careful not to overdo it.  If you love to run, opt for a 20-minute jog versus a 45-minute run.  If you're strength training, use lighter weights and higher repetitions (12-15).  Reduce your intensity and enjoy the post-exercise benefits while avoiding making yourself feel worse.

Scenario #2: You've got the flu

Tip #1: Skip the workouts - temporarily.  Whenever I tell someone to skip a workout I get the look.  I can't skip a workout, I'll gain weight, lose progress – you get the picture.   Trust me on this one though; you don't want to workout too hard with a fever, throbbing headache, or nausea.  If you're this sick, you won't reap any additional benefits from hard-core workouts.  In fact, you could end up hospitalized with more serious complications.  According to researchers, a flu can take somewhere between 5-7 days to clear up.  Until you're symptom free, avoid the gym and focus on getting better.

Tip #2: Stretch daily.  Stretching can be a great way to stay active without the stress of high intensity exercise.  Here's a mini-workout on flu days when you feel up to it.  Walk around the house.  A trip to the bathroom and kitchen should do.  Afterwards, stand tall and extend your arms straight up to the ceiling, stretch.  From that position, reach forward. Place your hands on a desk or chair to stretch your back and hamstrings.  Keep reaching forward until your hands touch the ground (that's the goal).  Go as far as you can and stop if you feel dizzy or off balance. 

Tip #3: Refuel your body.  If you've been down with the flu, the last thing you want to do is resume hard workouts right away.  While your body is on the mend, take the time to eat well, and restore your strength.  Eating healthy can help you have a stronger return to the gym and prevent future illnesses.  Drink plenty of fluids and eat lots of colorful vegetables to arm your body with powerful, healing antioxidants. 

There you have it.  Make sure you make the most of your healthy days to avoid as many cold and flu days as possible.  It’s okay to exercise but the bottom line is to listen to your body and rest as needed.  I promise that you won’t lose all your progress in a few days.  In fact, the extra rest may give you the extra boost you need to resume your exercise.


Stay healthy!


As a 4-time mom, I understand the many demands and challenges that come with raising a family and trying to get or stay fit. I've developed programs for pre-conception, pregnancy and post-pregnancy as well as preparing for and recovering from challenges like medical procedures.
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