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I'm sick? Should I be working out?
Yes, I've come down with something. A busy holiday and work schedule, increasing miles running outdoors, the sudden change in temperatures have caught up to me. It started as just a little bit of the sniffles in the morning. No big deal! A healthy dose of endorphins, 3 mile run in 35 degree temperatures and I'll be just fine. Beside, I'm in good shape. My immune system should be impenetrable right?
Now, I've got the full blow head cold. It's now traveled to my eye, which is as pink as the anti-oxidant drink I'm consuming every hour and the eye is running water like a faucet. I haven't done any fitness for two days now and with a race on the schedule for Sunday, what should I do?
Well, the research tells me that as long as the ailment is from the neck up - head cold, sinuses, etc. - a lower intensity 30 minute workout will not exacerbate my condition and my actually make me feel better. If I was struck with the flu, with elevated body temperatures, stomach issues, then I'm better off in a blanket with some hot spiced rum, a nighquil and a Christmas flick!
I've found that the key bit of advice in all this that I've read on the web (after the Flu Like symptoms bit) is "lower intensity." I think we all would admit that we're probably not going to be able to bust out 45 minutes of hard intervals on the treadmill, elliptical or spin bike. But even with that stated the "lower intensity" really needs to be much lower than we would even estimate. If you're used to running at 7 miles per hour, then lower intensity doesn't mean 6.3 mph. No, maybe 5.5 mph.
This is where having your own home fitness equipment comes in as an unexpected benefit (time for the shameless plug)! With a treadmill and spin bike in my basement, I can accomplish a lower intensity workout in the comfort and convenience of my own home. I don't have to step outside into the Michigan winter to get to the gym. I don't have to worry about how bad I might look while I'm working out. I won't be motivated to out race the guy on the treadmill next to me. I don't have to return to my car all hot and sweaty in 25 degree weather, inviting more problems. No, I can go down stairs in my favorite shoes, shorts, and old race t shirt and jog for 30 minutes, go back upstairs perhaps feeling a little better than when I started and keep moving forward.
And while we might think what is that going to do for my fitness (or my upcoming 5k), it will do a couple of things: it will keep you moving a little bit and help clear your head and your lungs of any nastiness. And, just as importantly, a little bit of low intensity fitness will relieve your anxiety levels about losing your fitness and allow the rest of your body (muscles, tendons, joints) to mend a little bit too. Who knows? You might come back from this little set back a whole lot stronger!