Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cooties or Something Worse!

Ah yes, it’s that time of year again… 

Like summer camp's cooties scourge , early winter brings back that bit of evilness called the flu.  And just like cooties, you just can’t get away from it! Even if you hide in your cubical all day, or avoid your roommates at all costs, that invisible virus creeps onto your skin from the places you least expect—the door knob, the kitchen sink, the gym weights, your children (or worse, nieces and nephews). If you touch something that someone infected by the bug did, you come into contact with the flu virus—plain and simple. So, you will encounter the flu. But how you gonna deal?

We all know that the flu knocks you on your butt and puts a serious hurt on your life. For some, depression also sets in with that first sneeze. ‘There goes this week’s training. There goes all my base work. There goes next month's marathon. There goes… (you've entered into endless questioning that leads nowhere).” The anxiety exacerbates the situation by releasing stress hormones in your body that suppresses your immune system. In other words, psychological stress prevents you from getting better. Prolonged sickness begins to effect other parts of your life as you miss dates or parties or family activities because you’re not feeling well. Perhaps, you must take sick days from work.

Your body tells you something important when the flu affects you: “I need rest.” Relax your mind and postpone pushing your body for a few days. I am not suggesting that you stop training. Athletes train with the goal of getting faster and stronger. Sometimes this means going as hard as possible in order to tear up your muscles (we call this overloading). At other times, training means repairing those torn muscles and allowing your systems to return to normal. When athletes stop training, they often fill their time with other things which do not include thinking about their body. Instead, take the time you set aside to work out and replace it by working hard to heal your body. That is, adapt your training to optimize your recovery. Talk to a coach about possible substitutions you can make to increase recovery when affected by the flu. Can you take that hour endurance bike ride and turn it into an hour of self massage to encourage your immune system? Can you do a half hour of light yoga followed by a long warm shower instead of doing VO2max intervals? Can you sleep more? Sure you can.  And, m
ake sure to talk with your coach about how to train as you step back in to your full workout plan - jumping right in to the schedule you had to abandon due to illness is not the way to re-engage.  Be an active participant in your training. Instead of putting yourself back, adapt.

Hopefully your encounter with the flu this season hasn’t taken you to the point of curled up in a fetal position on the couch!  Use common sense steps to avoid infection and prevent the virus from spreading: wash your hands frequently; be aware when you touch something that others touch (door handles, computer key boards, ect); get plenty of sleep and eat well to keep the immune system functioning at full capacity; keep your hands away from your eyes, hands, mouth; be caucious when in contact with someone sick with the flu; stay home if you're feeling the flu coming on and cover your mouth if you cough! 

By the way, do not use the flu as your weight loss plan.  Don't run off to the local day-care searching for this year's strain in order to take off that winter weight!  (Shoot Power On an e-mail and we can chat about other ways of losing weight. )

This post was co-written by Power On Coaches Mike Kuhn and  Jon Fecik.