THE EXERCISER’S SURVIVAL GUIDE TO THE COLD SEASON

Warm Up With CKO

Every year cold season strikes, putting you at risk of becoming the common cold’s unfortunate victim. Taking these proper measures and adhering to well-known remedies will have you back up, healthy and one hundred percent in no time.

You’ve been on a roll when it comes to working out. You hit that gym so often, you might as well keep a spare sleeping bag there.

And then, out of nowhere, you feel it. You’re getting sick.

Yes, the winter season has brought more than holiday lights and good tidings of joy; it has hand-delivered you a cold.

Now what?

You may be one of those common cold victims excited to just cuddle up under mounds of blankets. You happily imagine yourself binge-watching Netflix and catching up on your Z’s until this sickness passes.

Or you may want to fight through it, maintaining the fitness routine you’ve worked so hard to master and simply live in denial of your cold. For you fear losing your exercise mojo.

You are suddenly taken back in time to a situation you don’t want to be in. For you vividly recall your mother’s voice hustling little you back into bed, bringing in a tray of tissues and orange juice-filled glasses and telling you one word: REST.

And this potential reality, a world without exercising, makes you want to crumble to the floor.

Fear not, fitness friend. Though your mother is right, her regimen for making little you all better is not all-encompassing.

If you want to stay in shape while also getting that unfortunate annoyance (aka “the cold”) over and done with, here’s the plan.

 

TONE UP, BUT TONE IT DOWN

First of all, if you have the flu, fever, fatigue or anything deadly or contagious, please take your mother’s advice and just stay in bed. Do this for the sake of others; If not for them, do this for yourself, since others will want to bury you for contaminating them.

If you’re sick with something more along the lines of the common cold with a slight cough or runny nose, then carry on with your workout. Exercise actually can help us clear our nasal passages when sick. So there is an element to exercise that gives us relief from those yucky cold symptoms.

Just ease up. For those who go full blast when working out, this is the time to stop revving your engine and pump the brakes a bit. Your immune system is working overtime to get you back in tiptop shape. Putting undue stress on your body will only make it harder for you to overcome this cold.

Try cutting your workout in half. Decrease your normal intensity. Give the old heavy bag a bit of a break today.

During your CKO workout, don’t push to your maximum intensity. Keep your heart rate lower than where you normally push it. Slow down and modify. Try basic squats instead of jump squats. Decrease the normal speed of your strikes and kicks.

More than anything, listen to you body. It knows best.

 

H2 OH YES!

Keep drinking. And no, we’re not referring to Tito’s and Soda or whatever your alcoholic beverage of choice may be.

Up your (non-alcoholic) fluid intake to replace the fluids that are lost when you’re sick. This can’t be stressed enough. Otherwise, you are at risk of dehydration, which can make you feel even worse.

As CKO members know, water is imperative when working out. A class without water is a disaster waiting to happen. We expend so much energy and water when we work out, which is why we experience thirst during and after exercising. Similarly, when we are sick we are also expending energy, increasing our metabolism and, thus, require more fluids.

Think about it: When we have a fever, we sweat. Therefore, we are losing fluids. When we have a runny nose, our body requires fluids to make mucus. Again, we are losing fluids.

In the cold weather season we also tend to drink less fluids since we don’t experience thirst as much as we do during the warmer months. Thus, we’re already at risk for dehydration. Not only that, but “thirst alone is not the best indicator of dehydration or the body’s fluid needs” (American College of Sports Medicine.)

Our basic instinct of thirst is not a reliable reminder to drink up or drink enough each day. Many people either use the well-known 8×8 rule (eight glasses of eight ounces of water) or live by the recommendation of drinking half their body weight in water (a 150lb person = a minimum of 75 ounces) every day. Either way, when you’re exercising or under the weather, you need to up your ounces.

No matter sun, snow, sick or healthy, keep your water bottle within reach.

 

EAT WELL

You can continue to replace lost fluids with what you eat. Chicken soup is probably the first thing to come to mind. Not only is it hydrating, but rich with vitamins and minerals, and helps clear your nasal passages.

Other water-rich foods like watermelon, celery, strawberries and grapefruit help fight dehydration. And speaking of grapefruit, eating it along with oranges and lemons, all high in vitamin C, help boost your immunity.

Boosting your immunity is what it’s all about. A study by the University of Helsinki, Finland found that taking vitamin C as soon as possible after the onset of a cold can reduce the duration of your cold by 19%, and possibly more depending on the dosage (Science Daily.)

Another way to boost your immunity? Increase the amount of antioxidant-rich foods you consume, such as berries, spinach, kale, dark chocolate and green tea.

Make sure to cut down on the dairy, sugary, processed and caffeine-rich foods, which can leave you with headaches, an upset stomach and dehydration.

 

SLEEP IT OFF

Oh that blessed craving of sleep! We get some sleep but rarely enough to satisfy us, causing our daily reach for the coffee pot.

Sleep heals. It is the key to overcoming a cold. For it is when we hit the hay that our body starts its recovery process. During the day we rely on our body to help us move, talk, reason, basically do everything. Because we are at complete rest when we sleep, our body is able to focus on treating our ailments, helping to get us back to feeling one hundred percent.

As we sleep we develop antibodies, strengthen our immune system and repair our fatigued muscles, among many other things. This accounts for our ability to wake feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day. Without proper sleep, not only will it take longer to recover when sick, but in general, lack of sleep accounts for a slew of detriments. This includes weight gain, depression, diabetes, heart disease, athletic performance and loss of concentration, among others.

Getting those eight hours of shut eye is much easier said than done, as our “to do” list never ceases to exist. But put the list to the side. For a few nights, forget the laundry, social media and DVR. Instead, just call it a night.

 

PREVENTION: KEEP EXERCISING

Though you may have been afflicted by the common cold, the fact that you exercise regularly puts you in a good spot; a very good spot, actually.

Studies have shown that regular moderate exercise makes us less likely, even half as likely, to get sick, since exercise strengthens our immune system.

The American Council on Exercise states that, “during moderate exercise, immune cells circulate through the body more quickly and are better able to kill bacteria and viruses.” As you exercise more frequently the immune system continues to kill off ill-inducing invaders, even when you’ve left the gym for the day.

Notice that this refers to moderate exercise, as long periods of high intensity exercise can actually decrease your immunity. So, keep your workouts consistent and do-able.

To sum up, if you feel like exercising, then do it. Just hold back a bit until you’re in the clear. And listen to you body. Give it what it needs: Water (lots of it) and antioxidant rich foods.

And sleep. Now go give your Mama some credit.

 

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Article written by Kimberly Oley, CKO Contributing Author and CKO Member since 2015!