December 22, 2011

Fending off the flu

Unfortunately, this morning I learned that even the holy trinity of dance-party-sweat does not heal all wounds. Specifically, it does not magically make you well when you pick up a cold from some nastiness on a plane (I’m guessing). Midday yesterday, I started feeling that tickle in the back of my throat. You know the one I mean… that not-very-painful-but-gives-you-a-huge-sense-of-dread-because-you-know-it’s-the-precursor-to-a-nasty-cold-or-maybe-something-even-worse. UGH. The worst.

I dosed up on some seafood soup with a side of steamed chicken and broccoli (because when your only dinner option is Japanese takeout, that’s the closest you can come to mom’s chicken soup), but alas, my throat was even more inflamed this morning. Darn it! Somehow, though, I made it through the day – thanks in large part to half a bag of cherry Luden’s cough drops (Soothing? Check. Sugary fake cherry flavor that means you might as well be eating Starburst? Also check). But when I got back to my hotel tonight, I realized that rather than going to bed, I wanted to work out. Now, we’ve all read those articles and their warnings to keep us from being psychotic exercise addicts: if your symptom are above the neck, you’re fine; if they’re below the neck, you’re not. But what if your current symptoms are IN your neck, and nowhere else yet? What then?

(Side note: I posed this question to my friend Adam, except I started off the conversation with, “You know what I hate? That stupid above the neck/below the neck thing. How am I supposed to know which it is?” It only belatedly occurred to me that my lack of clarification might have meant he thought I was a teenager trying to figure out which base was which. Oops.)

Regardless of what the experts say you should do, my personal mantra for being sick is: if you want to work out, you should. Chances are if you’re feeling up to it, it’s probably not going to do you any harm – and could even help get your energy levels up and flush the toxins out of your body (maybe? I’m no doctor). Adam advised me to keep my workout short, though – so instead of the hour of cardio I had planned, I did 30 minutes. And let me tell you, it felt great! Hooray for sweat.

But when I got back up to my room, I was still curious whether I had done the right thing. If you’re someone who pushes themselves in workouts, how do you even know if you “want” to work out? Let me tell you, when it comes to that painful moment when you’re gasping for breath after doing sets of three burpees/one tuck jump (though I am proud to say that I can do ten sets and finish in 1:19 before collapsing – beat that!), I do NOT want to work out! If you’re working out right, chances are, you’re going to be pushing yourself beyond a point that’s comfortable – so it can be hard to evaluate whether you’re doing the right thing or if you’re exacerbating any illness. Plus, I know myself, and this could lead to a slippery slope, where the slightest bit of laziness in the gym turns into me “resting” because I’m “sick.”

Lucky for me, one of my favorite health and fitness websites, Greatist, recently wrote an article on this very topic. And just for those people like me who are apparently too slow to pick up on this otherwise, they clarify: above the neck symptoms include “runny nose or sore throat.” Ding ding ding! Furthermore, they go through all the studies and expert opinions about whether it helps or hurts, and conclude that it’s probably a good thing to help your immune system – but to err on the side of caution, and either cut your workout shorter than usual, or go at a lower intensity. Turns out that crowdsourcing my decision to Adam was just the way to go!

And with that, I can settle in to my meal of Afghani chicken kabobs, spinach, and cubed pumpkin (tons of vitamins A and C there!), read for a bit, and head to bed. Time to try sleeping it off!


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