Monday, July 21, 2003

'Toughing out' illness delays recovery

By Dave Patania
Personal trainer

Question: I have been fighting a summer cold for the past few days but am afraid to stop exercising. What should I do?

Answer: The body operates on the simple platform of activity and recuperation. Every activity that you participate in prompts the body to use its many systems and the nutrients that you consume to aid in the recuperation process. If your body can effectively recuperate from your activity, it can also better prepare itself for future activities and higher levels of conditioning.

When you are sick, the body uses these same systems and nutrients to help fight off infection. If you keep pushing yourself too hard while you are sick, you will override your body's recuperative systems more quickly than they are able to replenish themselves, thus increasing your chances for more serious infection and a longer sickness. This process of "toughing it out" gets many exercisers sicker and for much longer periods than if they just would have taken two or three days off as soon as they got sick.

I have been guilty of this many times, thinking that by fighting through sickness I would somehow force my body to get better. I learned my lesson after suffering from many serious colds and ailments that should have been minor. True toughness is when you take the time off at the onset of sickness to a speed the recovery.

Consider the illogic: People fear losing what conditioning levels they have gained yet set themselves back further by not taking time off, not going to the doctor, and by trying to be tough. The body doesn't forget what levels of conditioning that you have achieved unless there is too long a period without activity or proper nutrition. Therefore, take the initial time needed to get better, then resume your workouts. In no time at all you will be back up to full speed. Get rest, get better and then get back to working out.


Contact personal trainer Dave Patania by e-mail:

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