Cold and flu season is not a fun one. If you have survived this year’s season “flu-free”, consider yourself blessed. But, if you are caught right in the midst of a cold or flu, you might wonder, “Should I work out? Should I train?”
Here is what Fitness Guru Jodelle Fitzwater has to say about working out in cold & flu season.
To train outdoors or not to train, that is the question
“If it’s above the neck, you can still put your body to the test. If it’s below the neck, let your body rest.”
From an athletic standpoint, we have all heard the phrase above. We know that if your sickness is more in the “head phase”, you are most likely fine to do your normal workout (just keep a few hundred tissues handy). Yet, if it’s more of that “chesty-mucusy-I-want-to-crawl-into-a-hospital-ward” virus that’s going around, obviously it’s best to keep yourself relaxed and resting.
Recently while I myself was plagued with a chesty cold, I decided to go for a paddle. I paddled out leisurely in the sunshine on a 60 degree day with calm wind and water, and I attribute the salty, sea air to part of my healing, and why I recovered so much more quickly.
Is paddling something you can do in cold and flu season?
Here are some things to consider:
In a recent article, I coined stand up paddling to what I call, “Active Relaxation.” You are still activating most all the muscles of your body, yet you can paddle leisurely without overdoing it. Most all of us will agree that there definitely is an element of relaxation when you are on the water, no matter how hard or gentle you are stroking.
This act of activating all the muscles, enhances and turns on our circulation, bringing blood flow to the areas of the body that are affected by the bug or virus and speeds up our immune function, without taxing the body.
Paddling enhances our immunity to virus & flu
If you are paddling in the sunshine, Vitamin D is on your side and one of the most powerful ways to enhance immunity.
There’s a reason winter is “cold and flu” season and summer isn’t. Generally people are outside less in the winter, and Vitamin D levels plummet. This actually increases your chance of catching a co-worker’s germs. That is why it is all the more imperative to avoid making your stand up paddling practice a “fair-weather” sport. It helps us stay healthy to get out there even in the chilly winter months, especially when the sun is out!
(Unless your body of water is frozen. Then, just get outside and daydream about paddling.)
Fresh air promotes circulation, clean lungs and greater health
Fresh air is another short-lived encounter with many of us in the winter months. With cold temps we tend to hibernate indoors with stale, stagnant, recycled air, that also recycles germs. The drier air inside can set up a breeding ground for bacteria when our mucosal linings dry out. Fresh outdoor air, even if it’s chilly, can be a wonderful healer for sinus, throat and for oxygenating the cells in general.
And what was that thing mom used to say: “Don’t go out into the cold when you are sick”?
Mom may have not been wrong about much, but she was wrong about this. New research cites that cold exposure, such as stand up paddling in the winter months, may actually ENHANCE immune function. The study noted marked changes in the expression of immune cells that fight off viruses and pathogens such as T-helper cells and Natural Killer cells (think: little ninjas inside your body that fight for you daily).
So hopping on the water, or even splashing some of that frigid water on you, may actually speed up recovery rather than lead you to feel worse.
Get Outside. Stay Healthy!
Don’t even get me started on the benefits of grounding and getting out in nature, where our human existence began and was meant to be, rather than an indoor-hibernation-nation.
Should you work out with a virus or nasty cough and cold? I would skip the weights, but I wouldn’t skip the water.
Whether you’re goal is to avoid getting sick, or to quickly recover from the bugs you have, your immune system and your mood will always benefit from paddling out.
Written by Jodelle Fitzwater :
Professional Stand Up Paddle Athlete and Nutrition Educator