I’m Sick. Can I still work out?
Functional fitness athletes and people who regularly work out are, generally speaking, really healthy people who avoid the doctor at all costs. They’re passionate about optimizing their fitness, performance, and health.
When an active person does get sick, it’s important to have a doctor that understands things like movement, nutrition, and recovery to help them stay on top of their lifestyle goals. We asked SteadyMD Dr. Dani Urcuyo, a functional fitness athlete and coach, for his top tips and tricks on working out when you’re feeling under the weather.
Don’t Sweat it out
Although exercise can temporarily relieve symptoms of the common cold (ex. stuffy nose), working out to increase your sweat production does not speed up recovery time from common viral infections or the flu. Think about it this way, when you are sick your body is fighting an infection which causes stress on your system.
Remember that exercise is a stressor and most of the time it is a good form of stress…but not when you are sick. Rather than trying to power through workouts when you’re feeling crummy, focus on supporting your body as much as possible. Take it easy for a few days and make sure to get at least 8 hours of sleep, eat nutritious foods, drink plenty of fluids and avoid substances like alcohol which can weaken your immune system.
Stop Overtraining…. Seriously
Functional fitness participants have made it a regular practice to step outside of their comfort zone and reach beyond their perceived limits. The intensity of functional fitness tends to attract a certain type of person – the “go-getter.” This type-A personality is typically juggling a career, family, and side projects. We tend to be the type of people who hate rest days, try to make it to class 5 or 6 days per week and even try to fit in a jog or spinning class when we can.
Intensity has tremendous benefits for improving fitness and overall physical and mental wellbeing, but only when it is countered by appropriate periods of rest and relaxation to build our parasympathetic tone. I often see the ramifications of overtraining including hormonal problems or issues with metabolism in individuals who are “burning the candle at both ends.” Sometimes these problems can take months to years to resolve. The value of maintaining adequate sleep and taking downtime to regulate, in order to prevent overtraining cannot be underestimated.
Food can maximize your healing
Most people thrive on a diet made up mostly of diverse colorful plants and high-quality meats and fats. Thankfully the days of viewing fat and meat as the enemy are coming to a close and more people are consuming and thriving on these nutritious foods. For a majority of us, food quality is much more important than quantity. When eating non-processed food our bodies will tell us how much we need to eat. It comes down to the idea of eating when we’re hungry and stopping when we’re full. Although counting macros adds an additional layer of precision, it should be considered a secondary goal once we’ve optimized our food quality.
It’s also important to note that food has tremendous therapeutic potential. A diet devoid of select foods and rich in others can maximize healing. Food is especially powerful for those of us suffering from an autoimmune disease or gut-related issues.
Up your body fat percentage
It is certainly possible to have a body fat percentage that is too low. For males, once folks get to <6-7% body fat, problems can arise. However, this cut off is a little different in everyone so issues can creep up even with high body fat percentages.
The signs and symptoms associated with a problematically low body fat percentage include general fatigue, inability to recover from workouts, frequent illnesses, nutritional deficiencies and something most guys are very concerned about: low testosterone. Low testosterone can then lead to sleep problems, depressed mood and motivation, and low libido. Not good.
Also keep in mind that although a very low body fat percentage may be attractive, it doesn’t mean that someone is “healthy” or is able to perform well athletically. Lots of professional athletes function better when they are not super lean.
Check your insulin resistance
I’m sure it’s not news to you that we’re in the midst of a diabetes epidemic. However, you may be surprised to hear that I see the beginnings of diabetes, a phenomenon called insulin resistance even among us CrossFitters.
Driven primarily by a diet rich in simple carbohydrates, chronic stress and sleep deprivation, the journey towards metabolic derangement has started for a significant portion of us. Again, I cannot overemphasize enough the importance of eating a diet rich in diverse vegetables and meat, managing stress and getting enough sleep. Without these critical pieces, we’re robbing ourselves of our athletic potential and putting ourselves at risk for future chronic disease.
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