Sick? – “To train, or not to train?”   Leave a comment

I work in the public school system, and despite my level of exposure to the latest and best germs kids bring to school, I hardly ever get sick. But, I have to admit that once in a while I get one that I just can’t beat down within 48 hours, and have to refigure my exercise schedule. Stew Smith (US Navy SEAL) recently published some good advice for coping with sickness within your training program:

Working Out With a Cold
by Stew Smith (US Navy SEAL)

This week a National Guard soldier who is preparing for his PFT asked a common question that many people get wrong. “Since I have a cold (head stuffed, sore throat, sinus pain) is it OK to PT or run?”

First of all, anytime you go into a public facility consider it germ infested during the flu season — especially a gym. Catching colds from your kids who attend school, from living in barracks, or from cafeterias is all too common during the flu season. By simply washing your hands and using hand cleaner throughout your day, you can significantly decrease your chances of even catching a cold or flu.

But back to the question. The rule is: If your chest is congested, you have a fever, chills, dehydrated, or any other cold ailment from the neck down, DO NOT WORKOUT. Chest congestion and any type of exercise do not mix well. Aerobic or anaerobic activity can overwork your heart and can cause your chest cold to develop into a bronchitis or pneumonia. Lifting weights can naturally increase blood pressure. Combined with over working your heart, you can really cause damage if not careful when exercising while ill. Plus — you don’t want to bring your germs to the gym either.

However, if you have a head cold with minor sinus pain, sniffles, sneezing, etc., it is fine to work out as long as you have a normal energy level and are not feeling sluggish with no fever. Be careful not to overdo your activity with high-intensity workouts. You need to drop your intensity level a bit because your body is using energy to fight whatever is that is making you feel ill. Keep hydrated by drinking 3-4 quarts of water a day and eat healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, electrolytes, and lean meats. This will enable your body to fight off the bug causing your symptoms.

There is no evidence that you can “run off” or sweat out a cold. Studies have proven that you cannot decrease the duration of the cold or flu symptoms by exercising. In fact, if you workout too hard, you can actually get sicker. So eat, rest, add a light workout if you feel up to it.

— Great article by Stew Smith, and by the way, most people DO NOT wash their hands in a way that reduces actual germ population on the hands. Make sure you do it the right way by following this advice from Lance Corporal Scott Tomaszicki (USMC, MCAS – Cherry Point):

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the right way to wash your hands is to wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap. Rub hands together to make a lather and scrub well, making sure to clean the backs of your hands and underneath the fingernails as well. Continue rubbing hands for 20 seconds. Rinse, and dry your hands using a clean towel or by air drying. Thorough handwashing can go a long way toward staying healthy in flu season.

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