After having experienced the flu for the first time in my life, I have to say I have a whole new appreciation for good health.
If you have experienced the flu, you know what I am talking about. If you have not, let me walk you through it.
Imagine going for a run or a walk and as you are feeling accomplished with every step of the way, something out of nowhere comes at you to give you a beating so strong that every, and when I say “every” I mean every single part of your body is left in excruciating pain.
You did not see it coming. You have no idea why it picked you. But it did. But worse, you don’t know how long it will stick around. It is all a mystery! Or more like Stephen King would say. a Misery! Suddenly everyone around starts giving you a pitying look as they say “you got the flu.” They tell you the only thing to do is to get to bed and wait it out.
And as much I love staying in the comfort of my bed and taking baths, the flu got me to the point of hating my bed and hating baths! I guess it goes to prove that anything in excess eventually loses its charm.
The physical pain during the flu is real. I had no solace in standing up or laying down. I hurt if I got up. I hurt if I lied down. The pain becomes you. I had to take so many baths to control the fever and try to relieve the muscle and bone pain that at this very moment I hate the mere sight and sound of bathwater! In my opinion, they all betrayed me and gave no comfort while going through the flu. I don’t know if there is a chance for reconciliation there, at least not right now.
And don’t even get me started on the delirious moments! Not knowing if what you are saying makes sense. Or as my family claims, wanting to cut my hair because my head hurt so much I thought it would help. I am pretty sure it was that one incident that caused my family to call a meeting where they all voted to cast me out of what we call our home. I believe I even heard my seven-year-old daughter calling upon the vote while bringing down the gavel down to seal the deal in the middle of the darkness because the light hurt my eyes, which made my head explode.
But like anything else, even the flu couldn’t stick around forever. It has finally left and oh, how thankful I am for that! But before I move on to the actual point of this piece, I would like to take a moment on behalf of all of us who have experienced the flu and say “screw you, flu! You truly are an evil thing!”
When sick: Do you work out or not?
Now that I have said my peace, let’s get to the real topic of the day. Currently, I am training for an upcoming triathlon. With that said, I have kept a very strict workout routine to get me to where I should be, not only to participate but be competitive again. So the first thing that came to mind as I was feeling the effects of the flu was “I can’t skip a workout!” The first day I felt sore but thought I had enough energy to work out. But I wasn’t sure. I think I tried but had to quit after ten minutes. This, of course, prompted the everlasting we all face. Do we or do we not workout when sick?
As a rule of thumb, exercising is recommended in most cases (if you can). But with something as unpredictable as the flu or even a simple cold, how do you know when to work out or not? I personally, in my mind, felt worse not working out. But it truly got to the point that it would’ve been irresponsible to do so because my body was not all there. By skipping a workout, not only was I giving my body the very much needed rest it was going to need, but I was also going to stop myself from spreading it around.
Now how do we know if we can? The answer is pretty simple. Your body will tell you whether is up to any physical activity or not. And as much as our bodies do wonders, you should not push it. If you are having respiratory difficulties, you probably shouldn’t do it at all. If you do, you could be playing with fire. Remember your priority should be recovery first.
The Neck Check –
One easy way to know whether you should or not is to do a basic “neck check.” If your symptoms include a sore throat, nasal congestion, sneezing or watery eyes, it probably is okay to exercise. However, everyone is different. Check with your doctor first! No, you don’t have to go to the doctor for that type of question. There are many medical help health lines you can call if you are not sure. If your symptoms are below the neck; like coughing, body aches, fever etc. it is best to sit it out until you’re better.
And yes, we can give ourselves the talk about how exercise can benefit your body when sick. But the fact is that your immune system needs to concentrate on getting better and nothing else. Stress is not a good friend to recovery of any kind. Keep in mind that if you push your body because you do not want to miss one workout, you will end up losing many more for having done so. It is better to let your body do its job and pick up the best you can where you left off.
Now if your body hasn’t been taking over and you manage to still have some strength bringing down the intensity of your workout and replacing it with something like a walk, yoga or pilates can do wonders for your body as it recovers.
Hot Yoga –
The benefits are for sure there. For example, did you know that when doing yoga the body releases the stress hormone cortisol, which can help fight infections like the common cold or flu? Not only will yoga help boost your immune system, but the stretching may be exactly what you need when your body is aching as well.
If you are feeling a bit more adventurous you could consider hot yoga. But before you grab your mat and yoga pants on, I would recommend that you do not try hot or cold yoga until you are out of the contagious stage. If you are going to give Hot Yoga a try, do know you will be reaping so much that you will not only go because you are sick now, but because you have discovered an amazing thing as well.
Hot yoga is amazing no matter what, but imagine the benefits of walking into a hot yoga classroom and breathing in the warm air found within? To a congested chest, it will be like having a super-sized humidifier!
Another great benefit is the impact on the mind. Let’s be honest, being sick is stressful! You do not feel like yourself. You hate anything and everything because you are in so much pain. So much that even the mere drop of a pin on carpet kills your ears! Therefore as your body’s energy drops, your lack of patience climbs. By doing yoga, you are giving your mind much needed exercise as well. As you release the stress and tension, you free up your mind and equip your body to fight the illness more effectively.
A Walk –
Now, if the sweats and stretching don’t sound like the way to go, how about a walk? After having been in bed for that long, my back started to hurt so bad that on the fifth or sixth day I just had to get up and walk even if it was only within our home. Although there wasn’t much of a pace to it, it helped a lot. I also happened to realize that we should probably get a robot vacuum of some sort because I am pretty sure the things I saw in some of those corners do not belong there and I am not sure even the best of yoga moves will help me get there.
Anyways …. As I walked around the house, not only did I feel the very much needed muscular and skeletal pain relief, but even my head started to relax. It wasn’t until the 7th day that I was able to take it outdoors and that one for sure made my body wake up.
If you are not sure if you are ready, my advice is this: Test it out. There is nothing wrong with getting ready and turning around if you do not feel right. Or perhaps go for a short walk. Start with a low impact pace. The point is to help you feel better, not get the ideal BMI! If you can do anything to give your immune system a boost, it is worth it. If you do not feel good at the pace you have taken, stop and re-evaluate. Perhaps you should do some stretching and flexibility exercises instead?
If you do feel good and manage to complete a ten-minute walk, maybe you can go for a bit longer. Do keep in mind that sometimes the feeling of a run or walk are too good to let go too fast, so we keep going. But we fail to remember that we still have to go back! So make sure that you are taking into account your return trip in order to not overdo it and set your recovery back.
Qigong is an ancient Chinese exercise and healing technique which includes meditation, controlled breathing and physical movement routines. Since the practice itself is already a healing process, not only is Qigong an option but it is highly recommended when sick. Qigong loosens your muscles. Its slow, precise and regular breathing techniques and energy movement combined work together to send more oxygen into the tissues than regular exercise.
One of the greatest benefits is its ability to build up against stress. By relieving stress it helps the body in rebuilding due to short or long-term illness or stress.
Whether you decide to work out or not, the most important thing to keep in mind is that anything you do should be about helping your recovery not delaying it. If you have decided to get back or continue your workouts, be mindful of others. Do not hit the gym if you are contagious. If you do go, make sure you clean up after yourself. Even if you have a home gym, clean those machines. Protect your household by disinfecting things that could retain the germs and infect others in your home.
Avoid places where there are large groups of people. Cover your mouth if you sneeze. Use a clean handkerchief to open doors. Advise others that you have a cold or had the flu. That way they will have options as to what to do to sanitize their space.
No, it is not impolite for them to spray Lysol after you have left. It is, however, impolite to not cover your mouth if you cough. Wash your hands often. Don’t skip the soap! If you can, carry a hand sanitizer with you.
But above all, stay hydrated! As much as I am a water drinker, water when sick is not enough. A cold or flu will dry your body up. Make sure you are getting enough electrolytes. It is important that you do all you can to prevent dehydration. Drink plenty of fluids and eat foods high in water such as fruits and vegetables. Do not ignore the feeling of thirst. It is the most accurate tool to know if you are dehydrated or not.
As my mom always, this is temporary, so while cold and flu season is a pain and it can interfere into our fitness routines, it is not here to stay. So hopefully these tips will help you surf through it while here but more important preventing it.