I visited the doctor and got some medicine to help but, truth be told, I’m really bad at racing just for “fun.” I feel I must win, place, or at the very least, post a faster time than the previous year. If you didn’t see me this past weekend, please know that it is no reflection on this super cool event, just my obsession with being competitive.
Whether you are training for an event, a high school or college athlete, or just a plain old exercise hound, there are benefits to working out through the cold and flu season. According to an expert at Purdue University, exercise during the cold and flu season can strengthen the immune system so long as you don’t overdo it.
“Exercising during the cold and flu season will help people stay in shape, and most likely fight off colds or reduce the number of days a person is ill,” said Michael Flynn, professor of health and kinesiology. “The cold season should not be an excuse for the average person to refrain from exercising — working out at the gym, a brisk walk in the park or a jog through the neighborhood.”
Dr. Flynn continued, “Strenuous or prolonged exercise seems to suppress the immune system, leaving athletes more susceptible to illness for one to six hours following a hard workout — the so-called, ‘open window.’”
During this “open window,” it might be your best bet to lay low around friends or family members who are nursing colds or have the flu. Since these cold and flu germs are all over the place, here are some hints to keep you on the streets and off of the couch.
— Eat right: During cold and flu season, load up on healthy fruits and vegetables which provide antioxidants. If you’re not getting enough of these foods, then supplement your diet with a multivitamin.
— Clean your machine: If you’re working out in a fitness center, be sure to wipe down the equipment before and after use. Nasty germs can live for a while on all surfaces so play it safe. If your gym does not provide disinfectant sprays or towels, invest in some wet wipes and keep them in your gym bag.
— Put your name on it: When everyone is drinking the same brand of water, it’s really easy to pick up the wrong one during your workout. Drinking after someone else is a sure way to share germs. If you have a re-usable sports bottle, put your name on it. If not, carry a Sharpie and mark your store-bought bottle. The same thing goes for towels, so keep yours with you at all times so you don’t mix it up with your neighbor.
— Keep hydrated: In case the occasional sniffle starts, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water before, during and after your workout to prevent dehydration.
— Wash your hands: There is no better protection from colds and flu than good old-fashioned hand washing. If you’re away from a water source, carry hand sanitizer in your gym bag and use it frequently.
— Use common sense: If you’re running a fever, have difficulty breathing from an upper respiratory problem or have an intestinal virus and just feel lousy, stay in bed. Exercising when you are really sick is not only miserable, but can make your symptoms worse and run down your immune system.
Exercising during cold and flu season is just what the doctor ordered when it comes to boosting your immune system. Just make sure to avoid others who are sick, take simple precautions and if you do become sick and don’t push yourself too hard. If you missed me on Saturday, never fear. I will be back at Rumba 2010 trying to set a land speed record in the old ladies’ division!
— Kathy Hansen has over 20 years experience in the health and fitness field and is a five year veteran of the Rumba on the Lumber. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.