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February 2011 Tip of The Month

Category: General
When Not to Work Out

Cold and flu season is here. How do you stay on track towards achieving your weight loss goal in spite of it? Learn about the "Neck Rule" and you can keep your forward progress steady. READ MORE:

The Neck Rule: When you come home from work and are wondering, "am I too sick to exercise?", just apply the Neck Rule. If your symptoms are all located above your neck (stuffy nose, scratchy throat, headache, post nasal drip), you almost certainly only have a head cold and can hit the recumbent bike or the treadmill safely. And by safely, we mean that you will not decrease your body's ability to resist illness. On this type of a day, it would not be appropriate to try to break any records in your workout performance or even have a "heavy" workout. Going light to low moderate in your exercise intensity will carry the day. If, on the other hand, you have a fever, congestion in your chest and lungs, or feel achy, it is probably a sign of flu, bronchitis, or another more serious illness, and you should take a rest day.

If you pass the Neck Rule, modify your workout intensity and duration. If you rely on a heart rate monitor, (and we strongly recommend that you do!), maintain a heart rate at 60 - 65% of your age predicted maximum (age predicted maximum equals 220 minus your age). If you suffer from diabetes, heart disease or other chronic conditions or are taking medications like beta-blockers or others that affect your exercise response, ask your doctor for the specifics of your heart rate range. It's amazing that exercising for an entire hour at only the typical warm up intensity of 60%, one burns not that many fewer calories than a full blown maximum workout. In other words you'll still burn plenty of fat you just won't build your heart muscle much on a day like this.

Exceptions to the Neck Rule: Of course like all advice, a little common sense is necessary too! For example, if your above the neck symptoms are severe, you should avoid exercise and give yourself some down time until your symptoms resolve. Exercising with a fever will make you more vulnerable to dehydration, among other ill effects including recovering from the fever more slowly.

Not sure if you're passing the Neck Rule test? Simply try 5 -10 minutes of cardiovascular exercise at 60% of your age predicted maximum heart rate. If, as a result, you feel the same or worse, stop exercising and take a rest day. If after the 5 - 10 minute trial you feel better, continue at 60% for as long as you still feel well and as time permits for a total of 30 - 60 minutes.

If you fall off the horse of your weight loss resolution, don't beat yourself up, just get back on and for heavens sake don't "kill the horse".