Archive for August, 2012

Should I Workout When I’m Sick?

I’m writing this post to you wiped out on the couch with a wicked case of strep throat. I had no idea a sore throat could hurt so badly! Have you guys ever had strep throat? If you haven’t, count yourselves incredibly lucky and if you have, I feel your pain! It’s terrible!

If you’re someone who works out most days of the week, during cold and flu season, you may want to know, “Should I work-out when I’m sick?” Or, if you’re more like me, “Should I feel guilty for not working out when I’m sick?” I should tell you that it’s Sunday and I haven’t run since Thursday. One, because I’ve been on antibiotics for strep and on strict orders from the doctor to rest, and two, I just didn’t want to. 🙂

If you’re debating illness and exercise, you need to ask youself two questions; how sick am I and how much exercise am I doing?

How sick are you?

Let me first say that if you are contagious, please don’t go to the gym! You’re not being tough, you’re being a jerk. It’s bad enough that you’re sick, but sweating in out in the gym means your spreading your germs to dozens of exercisers. Don’t do it!Secondly, if you have a fever, the flu, or some other condition which makes the trip from the couch to the fridge an arduous journey, you are officially too sick to exercise.

However, if it’s just a persisent cold, a runny nose, or a cough, you may want to think about it. Research has shown that moderate exercise may boost the immune system and actually may help you fight the cold, especially if you are a regular exerciser to begin with.

How much exercise are we talking about?

Most all of the research that shows a positive relationship between immune function and exercise refers only to moderate exercise, not vigorous or long-duration exercise. What counts as moderate? If you are doing cardio, you should only exercise 20-40 minutes, and you should be able to talk to your neighbor the whole time. If you’re lifting, don’t do any sets to failure and go for volume rather than max strength (think 2 sets of 20 reps rather than 4 sets of 5 reps).

If you feel like a cold is coming on, let me encourage you to keep your exercise moderate, and don’t go for that long run this week. While moderate exercise may help you get over that cold, extreme or intense exercise could actually make you more susceptible to an infection.

Bottom Line: If you have strep throat, stay home! But, if you just have a cold, get your butt out the door and go for a 30  minute brisk walk.

Do you guys exercise when you’re sick?

-Sara

Advertisements

To Stretch or Not?

Please let me apologize for our extended hiatus! I’ve been teaching like a crazy person all summer, Kevin has been working tons of overtime, and unfortunately the blog had to go on the backburner for a bit. But, now it’s almost fall and we should have plenty of time for our blog. Hooray! 🙂

One great thing that happened this summer was that a friend of mine guest lectured in one of my classes, and I learned a ton! He is a certified strength and conditioning coach, has a PhD in Exercise Physiology, and is an accomplished powerlifter. He knows a ton about weight lifting and I was thrilled to have him give a three hour lecture (plus, it meant I didn’t have to lecture that day).

The coolest thing I learned was how much convincing research there is about stretching; mostly, it’s stupid. Shocked? I was. Every team I’ve ever been on has started every practice by stretching. For those of you who work out, how many of you feel that you need to stretch before you start? It’s just good common sense, right? If you care at all about athletic performance, apparently not.

A study done at LSU looked at the effects of static stretching on sprint performance. The athletes stretched for 15 minutes (think bending down and reaching for your toes for 30 seconds at a time), and then did a 20 meter sprint as fast as possible. They compared the running time without stretching and interestingly, all the runners were significantly slower after stretching. The researchers even asked the runners which trial they thought was fastest, and every runner said they felt faster and more confidant on the stretching trial. But they were slower!

The same effect was found in endurance running as well. So why do we continue to stretch? For most of us, it’s habit. Our coaches told us to do it, our friends do it, and we’ve been doing it for years, but is it any good? What about injuries? For the longest time, I continued to stretch because I was afraid that if I didn’t, I’d  get injured. The research is mostly…inconclusive. (Here’s a link to a nice review article if you are nerdy like me) The problem is that stretching decreases the elasticity of a muscle, making it more compliant. Think about stretching a rubber band around a chair and leaving it for awhile. Not so stretchy. If you need to do a powerful, fast sport, you need all the elasticity you can get, and reducing elasticity can actually lead to injury. Even  low- intensity activity requires muscle elasticity, and while it probably doesn’t increase injury, it certainly doesn’t prevent it.

However, don’t take all this to mean you shouldn’t do any kind of warm-up before exercising. A slow jog and some dynamix stretching is wonderfully effective. Think leg swings, high knees, and butt-kicks to get you started.

Do you guys stretch before you exercise? What do you do and do you swear by it?

-Sara

%d bloggers like this: