Wellness Wednesday: When NOT to work out

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Last week I “exercised” poor judgement. I knew it right away, since my natural consequences were swift and sure. 

I had an exhausting week at work. I had kept up on my regular workouts, and got a moderate amount of sleep. Then one morning very early, really in the wee hours of the night, I had to go do an emergency delivery. This dovetailed right into the day. As I worked into the afternoon, not surprisingly, I felt off, a little ill. However, it was the night of the big Zumba Master class, with the awesome teacher from out of town. It was not to be missed. 

I felt like it was all I could do to get my zumba clothes on. Maybe that was a sign. If you can’t get your sports bra on you should not work out. Anyhow, I got there, and it was packed. A nurse friend of mine told me I looked tired. She told me I’d feel better after the workout. Then the new instructor started  in and she was dynamite. It was great dancing; stuff I had not seen before. I did feel better. 

Somehow I had gotten into a little clutch of instructor types in my section of the crowd and everybody could actually dance. That made it even more fun, but you had to really put out. And put out I did. By the end I was drenched, which is unusual for me. My face was red as a beet, also unusual. And then I stepped into the cold night air and felt sick. Weird sick. I was pretty sure I had whacked my electrolytes. 

When I got home I felt strangely weak, and super thirsty. I drank slowly, ate some chips and salsa for salt, and soaked in a tub. I got better, but it took until the next afternoon for me to feel ok. 

Moral of the story ? Remember that working out is for health. If doing it will not be good for you then don’t. Other moral ? Listen to your body. 

So I thought I would take this occasion to give you ( and me) some reasonable criteria for postponing your workout. 

  • The neck rule: You may do a light or “ recovery “ workout if you have the simple sniffles or head cold (cold above the neck) and you are otherwise healthy. 
  • You should pass if your respiratory infection is below your neck in your chest or you feel systemic symptoms such as body aches and fever. 
  • If you have actual Influenza, do not work out. 
  • Do not work out if you are having an asthma flare. Consult with your physician on how to treat your flare and when to return to exercise. 
  • Do not work out after a concussion until your doctor releases you. 
  • If an old injury is acting up don’t just tough it out. Perhaps do a workout where it is not involved at all, or just get in to be treated. 
  • If you went without sleep, i.e. less than 5 hours… then just do a light session, eat, shower, then hit the hay. 
  • If you are really sore from a prior workout, go light on some different type of workout. 
  • If you are dehydrated, then hydrate up, wait a couple hours, then you should be ok. 
  • If you are pregnant without complications, you should be able to continue to exercise, but you will have to modify in later weeks. Consult with your physician about this. 

If you work out in a gym it is particularly important to stay away when you are sick, to prevent the spread of your illness. Likewise it is prudent to wash hands, use sanitizer and avoid touching your face so you don’t get what others have brought. Consult with your doctor about this season’s immunizations. 

Regular moderate exercise stimulates the immune system in a good way. But hard exercise to “ get you to the next level” can actually temporarily suppress immune function. During mild illness, a light workout or yoga session will not result in you losing fitness. When you are under the weather, switch your emphasis from training to self care. You’ll be glad you did.