You might not expect me to say this, but I think exercise is bad for you. OK, I don’t mean all the time but sometimes we shouldn’t train, especially at this time of the year. Unfortunately I learned this lesson the hard way at this time last year.
I had been carrying a couple of injuries so had a week off training to let them recover. This did the trick but I felt I had some catching up to do and started training extra hard. Then I got flu. I spent most of the next week lying on the sofa, coughing violently, aching and feeling very sorry for myself. What did I do wrong?
Loads of our clients have had colds and viruses recently and I am sure you know at least one person who has had one too. Let me make it clear, you should not exercise with flu. In fact any time you have a virus that affects the chest you must rest completely because training with flu can literally kill you.
I was especially stupid because the excessive training I did before getting flu weakened my immune system and left me vulnerable to viruses. At this time of year, when there are more viruses about, you should be especially vigilant about hand-washing to combat infection and maybe modify your training to more moderate intensities to ensure you don’t push your body too hard. Some of our previous blogs have highlighted that exercise doesn’t need to be flat out all the time, even a round of golf on a crisp winter morning could burn 1400 calories.
Another time to not exercise is when injured. Just like ‘a stitch in time saving nine’, resting a slight strain for a week can avoid it becoming a more serious injury that has you out of action for a month. If possible, rest the injured part, but try to keep doing some light training for the uninjured bits of your body. The week off that allowed my niggles to recover was the right thing to do, but I should have eased my way back in gently.
Finally common sense should always prevail. The ‘no pain no gain’ mentality can be quite damaging. Unless you’re an elite athlete you will get plenty of benefit from exercising moderately hard and don’t need to train until you’re feeling sick and your knees buckle. Similarly, if you get severe pain when exercising it is always advisable to get your GP to check you over. If you haven’t trained for quite a while, are over 60 years, very overweight or if you have any known medical condition you should see your doctor before starting exercise. Finally, if you’re pregnant or recently given birth get some advice on what exercises it is safe to do.
Exercise is a good idea for everyone and may even prove a lifesaver, but you need to do the right exercise at the right time. Everyone should get their blood pressure checked when they start an exercise programme because undiagnosed high blood pressure is quite common. Ask your local pharmacy, practice nurse or a Personal Trainer at your gym to do it. Then go for it, but start slowly. If you feel overly tired or sore after training you overdid it and reign it in a little next time. If you’ve had the day from hell and feel tired, have a shorter, less intense workout.
Most importantly find a sport, activity or training regime you enjoy most of the time. We all have the odd off day, but if you enjoy it most of the time you’ll stay with it and stay fit.
Jamie Johnston is a Personal Trainer in Birmingham