Flu season is here. We have had a nice warm fall but now it is starting to get down to more seasonal temperatures. What this means is an increased incidence of illness. Here are some FACTS with suggestions to help you stay healthy this flu season.
First of all if you are sick, STAY HOME!
You may feel better when you exercise but you are actually weakening your immune system which may keep you sick longer. One of the long term (or chronic) effects of exercise is it actually improves your immune system. What this means is with regular exercise over time you will be more resistant to the flu and colds, but that is not same thing as the acute immune response. Each time your exercise your immune system is weakened for a short period of time after. Therefore, there is no such thing as “sweating it out”. Research shows this idea is a myth. Check out this article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine which says your immune system may be compromised for up to 3 days after intense physical activity. http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/42/1/11.short Everyone wants to be the tough guy and come in for their WOD even when they are under the weather. Don’t be that guy!
Second, WASH YOUR HANDS!
We try to keep the gym clean (and due to his OCD Coach Keith does a really great job of this!) but it is a dirty environment. Barbells, pull up bars, dumbbells and kettle bells are notoriously gross. This is not just IPC, it is just the nature of the equipment. Everyone is working hard, breathing heavily and wiping sweat from their faces (ie. nose and mouth). Even if we did spray the bars down after each use, it would do little good. The knurling (that’s the grippy part of the bar) is essentially impossible to clean. Besides being designed to help you keep holding the bar, it also makes for an amazing place for viruses and bacteria to live. As we just discussed immediately after your workout is probably the easiest time to get sick. Since your hands are probably dirty at this point the best way you can prevent getting sick is by WASHING YOUR HANDS! This is the single most important thing we can do to prevent ourselves from becoming ill. Check out this link the Centers for Disease Control on hand washing. http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/why-handwashing.html
Third, DRESS FOR THE WEATHER!
We know going shirtless is the thing to do in CrossFit (or when you are being chased by a bear while barefoot) and the flu isn’t caused by being cold, it is caused by the flu virus. http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/diseases-conditions-maladies-affections/disease-maladie/flu-grippe/causes-eng.php But the cold temperatures do make it more likely to get sick. There are many theories for why this is. Shorts and no T-shirt are great during your WOD, but we suggest making sure you are dressed for the weather outside when you are leaving to get into a cold vehicle.
Follow these guidelines and hopefully we will all make it through the cold months with no significant time off due to illness.