Getting Back the Gym After the Flu
So you are one of the many people who have fallen victim to the flu. You have just spent the most miserable week of your life in bed. You swear that next year you will get that flu shot.
That's next year. This is now, and you are ready to resume some normal activities -- including the gym. But before you do, it's best to keep some basic guidelines in mind so that you don't relapse or worse, hurt yourself. Now working out may help you regain your strength as you recover from the illness. Listen to your body to determine when to resume regular workouts and how intensely to make them.
If you have been recuperating from a contagious illness, you should stay away from the gym until any risk of transmitting your germs has passed. A viral infection is likely to leave you with weakness in your muscles, making your usual workout more difficult to complete. (In general, exercise is still possible if you only have a minor cold, as long as you are fever-free and aren't coughing much.)
The specific symptoms you have experienced will also affect when you can reschedule the gym. Always wait until a fever is gone before exercising.
Wait for other significant symptoms to pass, such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, severe coughing, general aches or chills. For the best results, wait until you begin to feel an increase in your energy and muscle strength so you are able to complete a workout. If you're at all unsure, consult with your healthcare provider for some professional advice.
Your first trip back to the gym is the test of your body's strength after the illness takes its toll. Plan for a shorter workout with lower intensity. That means keeping your weights lighter and shortening the sets -- to about five or six. If you cant do the same number of reps you usually do, don't push it.
Be sure to keep hydrated by drinking even more water than usual. A slower pace is less likely to make you feel worse or cause your symptoms to reappear. If you feel dizziness, nausea or pains, end the workout early or slow down even more. Take the next day off to give your body more recovery time.
If your gym regimen includes training, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least two weeks to get back to full intensity. Increase your intensity slowly with each workout, paying close attention to your body for signs that you are working yourself too hard.
If you are recovering from a major illness, your strength may vary from day to day. One trip to the gym may allow for an intense workout while the next day you may feel that an easy workout is beyond you. Adjust your training schedule to accommodate how your body feels each day.
Ken Hunt is the owner of New York and Miami's Steel Gym, an AFI-certified trainer and a fitness expert with expert advice featured in The New York Times and other major media. He lectures on physical fitness here and abroad and is finishing a book, The Hunt for Fitness. Steel Gym, at 146 W. 23rd St. in Manhattan, has been named the No. 1 gym in New York by the American Fitness Institute for three straight years; awarded the New York Award for Physical Fitness Facilities for three straight years; named one of the Top 5 gyms in the U.S. by Muscle & Fitness Magazine; and given the Talk of the Town Award for Outstanding Customer Service for four straight years. Call (212) 352-9876. Steel Gym in Miami is at 5556 NE 4th. Call (305) 751-7591. You can email Ken at SteelGymInfo@aol.com; log on to www.SteelGym.com; on Facebook at SteelGymNYC and on Twitter @SteelGym.