It is tough when you finally make exercise a habit and see progress, only to have a cold or the flu knock you off track. With your strong desire to challenge yourself, you might be tempted to ignore your symptoms and push through your workouts. While this is okay under some circumstances, there are also times when exercise may only make things worse. Pay special attention to your symptoms before exercising when you are sick.
When to Exercise
Most health experts agree that when your discomfort and symptoms are in your head, like a stuffed up nose or minor sore throat, it’s okay to stick to your workouts. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise may briefly ease nasal congestion. If you decide to exercise, consider decreasing the intensity or time.
Even though you can exercise, it doesn’t always mean that you should. Keep in mind that these beginning symptoms might be the first signs of a more serious cold. Trust your instinct and take a break if you feel your body needs it. Rest can help you feel better, and one day isn’t going ruin your progress.
When to Rest
When your symptoms move below your neck and include chest tightness, coughing, upset stomach, aching muscles, or a fever, take a break until you start feeling better. Exercise increases your internal body temperature, so exercising when you have a fever can make you feel even worse. Pushing through workouts may set you back further than if you take a few days and allow your body to fight off the bug.
Allow Time to Recover
A bad cold and the flu can cause fatigue, muscle weakness, and dehydration. Be patient with yourself. If you were regularly active before the sickness, your body will likely bounce back quickly, but don’t get frustrated if it takes some time. It often takes up to two weeks to feel like your energetic self again. Ease back into workouts with lower intensity exercise and shorter sessions until you feel confident that your body is ready to push harder.
Science-based recommendations for exercise are constantly changing as new research is revealed. As a result, it’s easy for old beliefs and unsupported claims to make their way to consumers. The best kind of exercise is the kind you actually do, so find a plan that works for you and watch out for these common exercise myths.
An effective workout requires special equipment.
Companies will try hard to convince you that you need the latest fitness product to ensure an effective workout, but this isn’t true. All you need is a quality pair of athletic shoes and clothing you can comfortably move in. If you want to invest more, consider a stop watch, hand weights and a mat for floor work. You can design an at-home circuit workout using your own body weight that is equally as effective as a workout you would get at the gym. Jogging, jumping and marching boost your heart rate, and your body weight can be used as resistance in many strength training exercises.
Only long workouts will improve your fitness.
You don’t have to put in hours of exercise each day to see results. Current research supports that shorter, high-intensity workouts can improve fitness, blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin sensitivity. They can also reduce abdominal fat and total body weight.
To get results, alternate high and low intensity intervals for at least 20 minutes. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that the high-intensity intervals be performed at 80 to 90 percent of your max heart rate for 5 seconds to 8 minutes. Recover with intervals working at only 40 to 50 percent of your max heart rate. These workouts can be challenging so be sure to find a starting place that matches your current fitness level. Also incorporate lower intensity exercise at other times throughout the week to allow for adequate recovery.
Do cardio before strength training (or strength training before cardio).
Don’t get caught up on recommendations to perform either your cardiovascular exercise or your strength training first. There are valid, evidence-based arguments to support both sides, and many experts agree that it depends on your goals and your personal preference.
If you have a clear goal of improving your endurance or building strength, do the activities that support those goals first. Wearing out your muscles with a long cardio session before strength training could prevent you from lifting to your full potential, and vice versa. Otherwise, do what works best for you. You might find it wise to do what you like the least, first. This may prevent you from skipping out early and neglecting a beneficial activity that isn’t your favorite.
Exercise at the same time everyday.
Those who exercise in the morning are often more successful at sticking with a program because they get their workout in before other duties push exercise to the back burner. Others have success with lunchtime workouts, or evening gym sessions to unwind from a long day. The best time to exercise is a time that works for you and your schedule. While creating a habit by working out the same time each day can be helpful for some people, don’t let the necessity of a schedule get in the way of a workout. If you have to miss your morning workout, it’s not a reason to give up on exercise altogether. Squeeze in 20 minutes at lunch or after work.
Whether it is a 5K or a full marathon, it’s important to be prepared before registering for a road race. Minor details that you might overlook can have a big impact on your training and race day performance. Consider these five things to ensure you are ready to cross that finish line.
Do you have enough time to train?
Don’t underestimate the amount of time it will take you to train, especially if you are new to distance running. 5K training programs last between 8 and 10 weeks, half marathon programs are often 12 weeks, and full marathon programs are 18 weeks or longer. How long it takes you to accomplish the distance depends on your fitness level and experience. Allowing yourself plenty of time to prepare will ensure that you will be fit enough to endure the race and recover well afterwards.
Are you ready for the course?
The mileage is only one part of the race. The type of terrain influences the difficulty. You might be in shape for a half marathon on a flat course, but a hilly course may have you walking more than running. Study the course and train accordingly. If hills or trails are involved, you will need to incorporate these into your training runs.
When is the packet pick-up and start time?
Consider the timeline of the race weekend, especially if the race requires travel. Many distance races require that you pick up your packet during the two days prior to the event. Will you be able to make it to the location before race day? Be sure you know the start time. When parking is limited, some races suggest arriving as early as 2 hours before the race. For early morning races, this may require that you are up and out the door by 4:00 a.m. If you are not a morning person, seek out a late morning or evening race.
How is support organized on the course?
Your race will have support stations at intervals throughout the course. The number of stations and types of support will vary depending on the race and the distance. Some will be water stations, others will offer sports drinks, and some will have supplements like gels or light snacks. Every runner is different when it comes to fluid and calorie replacement. Become familiar with what will be offered at your race. If you feel like you may need more support, or support at different intervals, consider training with a hydration belt.
What will it cost?
Running doesn’t have to be an expensive activity, but when you participate in races, the costs can quickly add up. Be sure you understand all that is involved so that you are not blindsided with unexpected expenses. Register early so you can take advantage of less expensive early-bird rates. Research if you will have to pay to park or if you will have to purchase a shuttle ticket to the course. Will you need new gear? Miles add up during training and you may need a new pair of shoes before race day. Knowing the full cost of your participation will help you fully prepare for the event.
Strength training with body weight exercises, like squats, lunges, and push-ups, is a method that has been around for years. Considering the many benefits of this type of training, it’s no surprise that it has regained popularity as an approachable, but challenging workout to improve fitness. Here are a few reasons body weight training may be a good fit for you.
It Is Effective
Similar to what happens when you lift weights, workouts that use body weight for resistance challenge the muscles by causing tiny tears in the muscle tissue. The tissue responds by rebuilding itself to become stronger. In addition, body weight training involves compound movements that use multiple muscle groups to develop both larger muscles and the smaller muscles that support them. Body weight training is also ideal for fast paced circuit workouts, which boost calorie burn for weight loss.
It Is Functional
A variety of exercises can improve strength and build muscle, but some do not translate well to the movements you do on a daily basis. Body weight training can be classified as functional fitness, meaning the movements are similar to the real-life activities you do outside of the gym. The exercises use the muscles you engage when you stand up out of a chair, squat to pick up a heavy box, or carry groceries.
It is Adaptable
Body weight exercises are adaptable for any fitness level. With a few simple adjustments, you can make standard moves easier or much more difficult. For example, you can start with a shallow squat, then move on to a deeper squat as you gain strength. From there, incorporate jump squats and one-legged squats. For push-ups, start on your knees, then progress to a standard push-up on your toes. To increase the challenge, do wide grip push-ups or one-armed push-ups.
It Saves Money
A body weight workout requires no gym membership and no investment in equipment. It is the least expensive form of resistance training that you can find. Depending on the exercises you choose, an exercise mat may be helpful, but otherwise you simply need a quality pair of athletic shoes to get started.
It Saves Time
There are several reasons a body weight workout saves you time. You don’t have to travel to a gym to do it. As long as you have some open space, most exercises can be completed in your living room. Whether you choose to do the exercises in a gym or at home, there is no need to lug out and put away equipment or wait for others to finish using the pieces you need. The lack of equipment also helps you move quickly from exercise to exercise, which keeps your heart rate elevated for cardiovascular benefit and reduces your exercise time.
Whether you want to prevent weight gain, lose weight or maintain your weight, research shows that regular exercise can help you reach your goal. Don’t let creating a workout plan overwhelm you. Here are a few simple steps to help you get started with an exercise program.
Determine Your Fitness Level
It’s important to know your fitness level before you jump into a workout program. This will help make your plan more achievable so that you stick with it and progress gradually. If you have access to a gym, consider scheduling basic fitness tests with a trainer. You can also perform your own fitness test at home by using resources from The President’s Challenge Adult Fitness Test. Once you know your fitness level, you can select activities that will be most effective for you.
Even if your main reason for exercising is to improve overall health, you still need to set goals. Working towards a goal will keep you motivated and prevent you from getting bored. If you don’t have aspirations to compete in an event or lose a significant amount of weight, keep your goals simple. For example, set a goal to do 15 standard push-ups without a break by the end of three months or to increase your walking speed to 3.5 miles per hour.
Cover the Basics
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that adults get 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity. In addition, you should include 2 to 3 days of resistance training and 2 days of flexibility training each week. This might sound like a lot, but by starting slow and combining activities, you can avoid spending all day at the gym. First, consider these recommendations as goals. You might only be able to do 15 to 20 minutes of cardio 3 days a week when you start out, and that is okay. Also, try combining activities so that you meet recommendations in less time. For example, try a circuit workout that incorporates strength moves with your cardio, or stretch your muscles in between strength training exercises.
Add Your Personal Touch
Make sure that your exercise program reflects your preferences. It should include activities you enjoy and that easily fit into your lifestyle. A gym workout is one option, but if you don’t like that atmosphere, explore others. Sign up for dance classes, rock climbing instruction, or a hiking club. Create an inexpensive home gym, or start walking or biking to work. Your exercise program should be as unique as you are.
Test Your Plan
The biggest mistake many new exercisers make is that once they have a plan, they feel they can’t change it. While regular exercise does require some discipline, you don’t have to force yourself to continue with your very first plan if it’s not working for you. Give it a test run, and after a couple weeks, make changes if necessary. You might find that your early cardio session is causing you to skimp on sleep. Try switching it to lunchtime or the evening a few times a week. Maybe getting to the gym every day during the week as you had planned is impossible. Cut down your weekday workouts, and put in more gym time on the weekend. Be flexible, and make adjustments until you find the right fit.
Check Your Progress
It’s important to monitor your progress to ensure that your program is challenging enough to improve your fitness. After 1 to 3 months, evaluate your energy levels and how your clothes fit. Repeat the fitness tests, and see how you’ve improved. If your program is working for you, you can stick with it and make it more challenging by lifting more weight or increasing the intensity. If you aren’t getting the results you want, remember that it can take a few months to see changes, but also consider some new activities to help you reach your goals.