The Health and Wellbeing column with Mel Spencer

Winter sees the return of flu and colds, even with people getting jabs. Illness can put you off your fitness regimes.
Winter sees the return of flu and colds, even with people getting jabs. Illness can put you off your fitness regimes.

It’s a very germy time of year and if your fitness regime has been thrown off course by a bout of illness you are most definitely not alone.

I for one, who rarely gets ill, or if I do it tends to fade quickly, have been knocked for six over the last week or so.

This got me thinking and prompted this article.

The big question is how to know when you’re good to hit the gym again...

The general rule of thumb in answering this question is whether your symptoms are above or below the neck.

Above the neck would constitute anything such as a runny nose, watery eyes or a sore throat.

If you feel up to it, with symptoms such as these a light workout is fine, just don’t overdo it. Indeed elevating the bodies temperature is a way of fighting a virus.

The flip side of this is that intense exercise can inhibit the immune system allowing the opportunity for illness to really take hold.

This leads us nicely onto below the neck symptoms.

Below the neck would include anything affecting the respiratory system ie a cough or tight chest, an upset tummy or aches and fever.

In these cases I would give exercise a miss as you only risk prolonging illness and or making it much worse.

Not exercising for a week or so can be tough for those of us who are used to exercising on a regular basis, but quality is as important as quantity and by trying to push through you are diluting your efforts over a longer period of time and potentially dragging out any symptoms.

There are no specific guidelines as to when you should return to exercise, the key is to ease yourself back in gradually, and before you know it you’ll be back to where you left off.

I recently took a week away from any weight based activities, and although that first session back was tough, I know had I tried to train any sooner I would only have been making myself worse – it felt hard enough as it was!

There will always be periods in our lives when we can’t exercise for one reason or another and as frustrating as that may be, the most important thing isn’t to beat yourself up, it’s part of life, and in the grand scheme of things the odd missed session here and there isn’t the end of the world.

Your body will thank you for the rest and you’ll be able to kick in again – gradually to begin with – and you’ll be surprised with how quickly you are back up to speed.

Let’s hope we are all well for the Christmas festivities!

Have a Happy Christmas and I’ll be back in the New Year with some top tips for any new gym goers on how to get through those first few gym based weeks!

If you have any questions, or for further advice, contact me at