Exercise, General Health, Q&A

Is it OK To Exercise When I have a Cold?

(Also appeared in LA Jewish Home 1/12/2022 p.34)

Before the ink dried on my own new year’s fitness resolutions, the universe conspired to give me a one-two punch right back into bed with a cold. That got me thinking about the time back in college when I saw others “push through” a cold with exercise. My try at the same routine, back then, landed me in the infirmary with a case of mono. So, is it a good idea to work out when you’re sick or not?

The answer is clear – yes and no!  Now that fitness is my career, I see a lot of objective differences between “working out” and physically moving the body, and it’s not just because “your workout is my warm-up.” [I don’t actually say that.] Seriously though, intensity is subjective and relative to the individual and also plays a role in the decision of whether you should work out with a cold and at what intensity if you do. Whether or not it’s advisable to work out also depends on your cold symptoms.

A workout that makes you breathe heavily, sweat, and work hard to the point of some discomfort, awakens a stress response in the body. When we’re healthy, it is precisely the adaptation to that stress in a progressive way that makes us stronger. Healthy bodies can adapt to that stress. However, the stress of this intense workout can overwhelm the immune system. This isn’t generally recommended when you’re sick. When you train hard, your body needs to repair the muscles that have been worked and this can further weaken your immune system. 

Some find that lower intensity movement including things like:

  • Walking (preferably outdoors)
  • Leisurely biking or swimming
  • Some types of Yoga or T’ai Chi

…can boost immunity and help you recover faster (unless you are out of shape and/or have other stressors). Let your own perceived level of exertion be your guide in determining what is low intensity. 

What shapes this recommendation is the scientific research which shows that when a healthy person exercises consistently and moderately, it strengthens immunity over time. Unusual, infrequent, sudden high intensity, or long-duration sessions can hamper immunity. Even more so, you should take it easy when sick. 

Besides your current fitness level and consistency, consider what other stressors you may be facing on a given day. Anxiety, relationship stress, financial, career, environmental (hot/cold temperature outside), diet, sleep quantity and quality, age, obesity, and many emotional and physical health issues all play a part in your immunity and resilience.

I typically tell clients: Don’t exercise if you have a fever, widespread muscle aches, or fatigue; if your symptoms are “below the neck”—like diarrhea, upset stomach, chest congestion, or hacking cough.

However, it may be ok to exercise if your signs and symptoms are all “above the neck” — symptoms such as sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, or minor sore throat. If you choose to exercise when you have a mild cold, I recommend that you reduce the intensity and length of your workout so as not to risk more serious injury or illness. Also, be considerate and don’t contaminate others. Avoid the gym or other public places.

Listen to what your body is telling you! If you feel miserable, take a day off or even a week off. The few days won’t really affect performance. 

Be sure to resume your normal routine gradually as you start to feel better. For instance, if you were sick for 3 days, consider taking 3 days to ease back in. Check with your doctor if you’re still unsure if it’s OK to work out.

If you’re healthy and want to prevent getting sick, the good news is that consistent, moderate exercise most days of the week is preventive for illness. Manage your stress and recovery, especially if you exercise with intensity. Wash your hands.

References:

Laskowski, Edward R. M.D. Exercise and illness: Work out with a cold?

(June 18, 2011) Retrieved from:http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise/AN01097

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Exercise, Fitness Goals, General Health, Motivation

Let’s Get Moving: 5 Tips for Getting Back into Fitness

Help, I’ve Fallen off the Exercise Wagon

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How to Ease Back Into Fitness

If you just spent the last month like I did: (a) With a piece of honey cake in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, (b) Doing an exercise routine exclusively made up of balancing hot dishes on one arm while walking laps in and out of the house, (c) where regeneration activity included multiple hours seated in meaningful contemplation or reading, or… (d) All of the above, plus sullen concerns about your lack of energy and expanding waistline…Then you will want to read on about how to bounce back into working out.

First: Let’s get real about expectations. You will want to pick up where you left off. This generally means you will want to return to the couch (Remember a body at rest tends to stay at rest from physics class in High School?!?) or, You will want to become the quintessential weekend warrior and jump headlong into intense cardio and double sessions in the gym. I want to take this moment to help you pause and do neither of those instinctive but completely unproductive impulses.

Instead, follow my

5 tips for getting back into exercise and fitness in a sustainable way:

1. Prepare for success. Lay your workout clothes and sneakers out before you go to bed. Schedule the workout in your planner and block out interruptions. Do that workout before you have time to think about it…because thinking during the next two weeks (your break back in period) will only get in your way. We want this on auto-pilot because deciding to work out and actually getting there is the hardest part. Short-circuiting the decision part is key. So stack that workout habit on top of some other firmly established habit (like waking up in the morning) and do it in a way that keeps it front of mind- i.e. having the sneakers in your visual space or the phone appointment alarm.

2. Begin the way you mean to go on. Plan on ONE thing you can stick with consistently FOREVER. Maybe that’s a 10 minute walk. Maybe that’s a 10 minute walk three times a week. Maybe that’s a 10 minute walk plus 20 situps and 10 modified pushups and a stretch. Pick that one thing you could reasonably, easily stick with for the rest of your life… and do it consistently for the next two weeks.

Resist the urge to give 110% these first two weeks. You want to work out to a point where you notice there was something happening but not so sore you can’t move (and sometimes you can’t tell because soreness doesn’t kick in until 24-48 hours after, so it’s ok to do a little less than you think you can that first time.) This is NOT the time to push your limits. You do not want to miss a workout these first two weeks. Consistency IS success. Soreness is not the indicator of success. I’m fairly certain you didn’t plan to go on needing to hold onto the walls easing yourself onto the toilet because …leg day.

3.Figure out your WHY and write that down. Why do you want to get fit? Want to not die so soon? Write it down. Want to look awesome for your niece’s wedding. Write it down. Need to get up the stairs without passing out? Whatever that “WHY” is, figure it out now, and write it down. Read what you wrote down often. Put it in your phone. Make a collage about it. When you have a meaningful reason, you can withstand the discomfort of making space in your life to commit to it.

4. Have Fun. The more fun you have while doing the workout the more you will stick with it. Maybe you fell off the wagon because you were bored. Then try something new- a new class, a new sport, something which used to make you smile but you gave up years ago like dancing in your bedroom like Madonna to show tunes.

5. Get support. Need a sports bra, get it. New sneakers? Need to dial a friend, a counselor, a coach, a trainer? You can’t do this alone. You need support so plan that out. Register for a class or take that walk Wednesday with a friend. Call a trainer or a sports med doc or a physical therapist if needed, so you can move better.

Periods of time off can break a plateau and even help reinvigorate your excitement and desire to exercise. Observing the Jewish holidays practically enforces a degree of moderation, and even regeneration (a key component of fitness), so don’t sweat it. It’s an overall sedentary lifestyle that becomes detrimental for our wellbeing but following these tips will allow you to ease back into sustainable exercise.

—–

Another version of this article appeared in LA Jewish Home October 20, 2022 (a newspaper serving the Greater Los Angeles Jewish Community)

Diet, Exercise, General Health, Motivation, Q&A

Q & A: Can people who exercise “get away” with poor food choices?

My short answer is Yes and No…

In a small study of  two groups of 7 participants, one group exercised for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity or higher at least 3 times a week. The other group worked out less often and less intense than the first group. 

All 14 participants were fed the same high fat 960 calorie breakfast meal. (2220 mg sodium, 48 g of fat, including 16 g saturated fat and 4.5 g trans fat..280mg. cholesterol)

After the high fat meal, they measured obstruction of blood flow in the brachial artery (-the one just above your elbow crease on your arm)..The less active group showed a greater obstruction of blood flow through the artery- it was narrowed,  while the more active exercisers had no change.

Both groups experienced an increase in triglycerides (triglycerides are an ester of glycerol and 3 fatty acid groups. High levels of triglycerides indicate an increased risk of stroke.) The more highly active group’s triglycerides rose by 47% but the less active group increased triglycerides by a whopping 184%

While exercise is protective against disease, and people who exercise may be more able to get away with poor food choices, but not on a regular basis. 

Johnson, B.D. et al. “Vascular consequences of a High-Fat Meal in physically active and Inactive adults.’  Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism, 36, no3. (2011) 368-375

Body Image, Diet, Exercise, General Health

Is Obesity a CHOICE?

Trigger Warning: 

This post involves discussions of Weight. If such topics are distressing or triggering to you please consider employing self-care tools and strategies which may include not reading this.

A February 2021 survey by the American Psychological Association reveals how the pandemic has led to unwanted weight gain.42% of US adults gained unwanted weight during the pandemic.52% of Gen Z adults report undesired weight gain, with an average gain of 28 pounds.48% of millennials report undesired weight gain, with an average gain of 41 pounds.Yet despite these statistics, for better health and a longer life span, exercise is more important than weight loss.

 An interesting new scientific review of the relationships between fitness, weight, heart health and longevity found that obese people typically lower their risks of heart disease and premature death far more by gaining fitness than by dropping weight or dieting.

The review adds to mounting evidence that most of us can be healthy at any weight, if we are also active enough.

Glenn Gaesser, a professor of exercise physiology at Arizona State University in Phoenix (My alma matter, BTW), found overweight and obese people with significant health problems, including high blood pressure, poor cholesterol profiles or insulin resistance, a marker for Type 2 diabetes, showed considerable improvements in those conditions after they started exercising, whether they dropped any weight or not. The studies show that even if no weight is lost, obese and formerly sedentary individuals can  lower their risk of premature death by as much as 30 percent or more.

And now, because the science needs to also explain that water is wet:

“Some past research shows that people who start to exercise rarely lose much, if any, weight, unless they also cut back substantially on food intake because the exercise they are doing burns too few calories and because they compensate for some caloric burn during exercise by eating more calories afterwards.”

This information begs the question: Is Obesity a Choice?

This short answer is..not usually. Sure genetics and bone structure, genes and upbringing play a part. However, some of us eat more and/or move less when stressed or anxious or depressed.. and for others its just the opposite! Some of us find sweet foods satisfying in some situations and salty in others (hint: there are actual biological reasons for craving salty in some situations and sweet in others–and its part of the glorious way or bodies are pre-programmed for survival).

Sometimes people are making choices, but they are only semi-conscious of them-for instance out of self-harm as a trauma response. Other times we don’t even know we are making choices because we are simply unaware of alternatives or we have never been educated about the way that stimuli such as emotions and specific foods trigger different responses within the body that set us up for a cascade of effects that are displayed visually or on our bloodwork results…

Information like how to combine which foods to achieve stable blood sugar and lower insulin response. A sensitive balanced insulin response can increase your sensitivity to feelings of hunger and fullness. That is necessary for true agency in one’s health outcomes (and visual outcomes). Listening to one’s body only works well when the body is working to give us those signals otherwise the whole system is rigged against us succeeding from the start (if our goal is to “listen to the body”).

There is a whole science behind options including which foods to combine or eat and when if you want to decrease cravings overall. Or which foods can make you feel fuller longer or think more clearly or have more energy.  Which type of exercises performed which way for how long will make you hungrier and which will enable you to feel more full after the workout. If you would like to know more about those things, so you are more empowered to make changes smarter not harder,  it is something I coach my 1:1 Private clients on.

Some people say, I can’t train with you Kayla, you’ve never been overweight like me. I have never been you, but there have been times I was overweight (5’5″ 172lb not pregnant, and 175 when pregnant) and I have also been mocked for appearing underweight (young teen), Fortunately I have mostly been in the normal range. I have discovered ways to hack the system both from reading and studying and talking to pros about it to be more stable over time and some of it has to do with hearing relatives who do have a good relationship with their bodies and food while growing up-which helps me reflect back to my clients when something seems off track.  I’ve survived illnesses, injuries, and other setbacks. I’ve had a few pregnancies too…and struggled sometimes there too.  Its important to select a trainer and coach (sometimes a counselor and/or RD) who does get you and who you are comfortable with and have the conversations so it can become more of a choice that your body is rigged to help you with instead of fighting with your body.

Body Image, Diet, Exercise, General Health, Motivation

How to Hack Your Hormones for a Better Mood

This year it seems World Mental Health Day got a lot more press in America. That’s a good thing because its really time to lower the stigma and thereby encourage everyone to get the help they need to to feel good.

So many of us have been affected by lifestyle changes brought about by Covid and I’ve seen many tip lists and articles about how to lower anxiety and increase happiness but some of it is dense and hard to remember so I created this handy dandy chart compiled from some of them. See if you notice what I did:
OK.  Technology wasn’t on the list.  
Did you see how often EXERCISE was on the list?!?

Exercise has multiple physical health benefits. AND it can have a positive impact on emotional well-being.Regular physical activity can increase your dopamine and serotonin levels, making it a great option to boost your happy hormones. In addition, you’ve probably already heard of the ‘high” that many feel from endorphin release intense exercise triggers. 

According to one article focused on using food to boost mood, here’s how to  Maximize the Mood Boosting Power of your workout:

To see even more benefits from exercise:

Include a few friends. A small 2009 study (of men) found evidence to suggest group exercise offers more benefits than solo exercise.

Get some sun. Move your workout outdoors to maximize your serotonin boost.

Time it. Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at a time. Any amount of physical activity has health benefits, but research associates endorphin release with continued exercise rather than short bursts of activity.
Exercise, Flexibility/Stretching, General Health, Injuries, Personal Trainers, Q&A

Muscle Cramps During Exercise?

Screen Shot 2019-04-30 at 7.19.43 PM Why Do I Get Muscle Cramps When Exercising and What Can I do about it?

You’re really jammin’ on your workout and then suddenly it happens, your muscles just cramp up and you can’t go on. Maybe a charlie horse hamstring or a calf pulsation ..What gives? Well there are many factors that could cause it and that’s why I often ask my clients if they have eaten recently and I also review their training program and ask about their activities between training. Aside from medications (like those for high blood pressure and cholesterol) and nerve issues, there are many factors which can cause cramping including overexertion, dehydration/electrolyte imbalances, inadequate nutrition, or chronically tight muscles.

When someone is new to fitness, deconditioned, or working out harder than they usually do, muscles are subjected to forces much stronger than that which they are accustomed. As a result, they may go into a spasm as a protective mechanism to prevent injury. Isn’t the body marvelous! Okay, it may not feel maahvelous at the moment. If this is the situation the obvious solution is to get more fit- gradually. Things like interval training will build up your endurance: both cardiovascular and muscular.

Another factor which often leads to cramping is dehydration. Potassium, magnesium, calcium and sodium in and out of the muscle and surrounding tissues maintain an electrical charge which allows it to do its work. When the levels of these minerals aren’t adequate or in the right amounts or the fluid which carries them in your body-H2O-water isn’t adequate, the muscle either can produce a weak contraction or make a contraction that fails to let go-a cramp.

Most people do get enough sugar and salts in their diet. Unless you are a serious athlete your issue is likely to be dehydration rather than inadequate salt intake. Make sure to hydrate before, during and after your workout. Consider avoiding caffeine and diuretics.

However, some people are sweating so much in their workout and having water but are not replenishing their sodium fast enough and water alone won’t relieve the issue. Typically this isn’t something happens in a one-hour training session but more of a marathon training of 90+ minutes of moderate to intense exertion. Researchers at Brigham Young University found that salt inhibits the message the brain sends to nerves which cause muscles to cramp. (It was a study where they made athletes cramp and then fed them pickle juice and it worked to stop the cramp within seconds). So you could try having something salty to relieve the cramping.

Low Potassium levels can contribute to cramping. Try eating potassium-containing foods such as banana, avocado or oranges at least once a day.  Calcium and Magnesium found in dairy and nuts can also help reduce cramping events. .

Some clients think that carbs are the enemy. However carbohydrates are the primary fuel for aerobic activities. The muscle can only store so much glycogen to fuel the workout and at a certain point it can become depleted. It takes about 60-90 minutes to deplete the glycogen stores but if we’re working very intensely it could become depleted in 45 minutes. Muscles need energy to contract and to relax.. So adequate fuel in the form of complex carbohydrates like whole grains and fruits can totally be part of your healthy lifestyle and may help performance.

Some researchers hypothesize that shortened/tight muscles- like shortened hamstrings from prolonged chronic sitting are more likely to cramp. The solution then is to become a regular stretcher. Things like standing toe touches, down dogs from yoga, lunges or similar modifications against a wall or using a chair etc can stretch the calf and hamstring area.

At this point you may be wondering why am I writing to you about cramps just after Passover?

I always think of cramps during Passover because while pregnant in 2002 or 2003,  I got the worst cramp that would not go away. I turned to Rabbi Blumenkrantz’ Passover book for a remedy in 2002 and on page 486 he writes, “ Vinegar is high in potassium and low in potassium levels;may cause some cramping, For best results, drink a mixture of 2tsp vinegar and one tsp of honey in a glass of warm water.”  Worked like a charm.

If you have fitness questions that need answers, write to me Kayla@getfitwithkayla.com

 

Diet, Exercise, Fitness Goals, General Health

Just One Thing..

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Just One Thing…

The most common New Year’s resolution is to lose weight and get into shape or tone up.  

If getting into shape is your goal, and you actually want to change your shape-say from a pear to an hourglass or from an apple to an hourglass or from a brick to an hourglass, or from a stalk of wheat to something that won’t blow over in the wind, cardio isn’t the best way to try and get there. Cardio is a great choice for heart health and stamina and we need to do it a few times every week but its not a top choice for maintaining a healthy weight and for actually changing your shape.

With resistance or weight training, we can build you some shoulders to give those of you with a pear shape a more balanced look and we can tighten and firm your glutes and use high reps on your thighs to give them a longer leaner appearance. Will that make you an hourglass? Technically no, because bone structure and genetics are what they are, but we can get you closer to balance and proportion you might have in mind.That said, there’s nothing wrong with any of those body shapes and many people do find them attractive despite the singular message about beauty standards the media seems to offer. From a health and longevity perspective weight training is great for you.

Those with more voluptuous bellies or booties may also be dealing with another big issue: hormones. Those of us in our mid to late 40s or 50s with bat wings who may be dealing with age-related loss of muscle.Muscle also gives a more youthful firmer appearance. Muscle tone helps you lose fat because it takes calories just to sustain itself.  Even if weight loss is your goal, resistance training, and especially resistance training in midlife is the way to go.

Muscle is metabolically active tissue…which means you don’t need to starve yourself and run marathons to maintain your physique. In fact, muscle tissue needs calories to stick around or it will waste away- which means you can eat good nutritious food without worrying so much that it will turn to fat. Isn’t that good news?

So if starting the new year with an exercise program means loving your body, that’s fantastic. If it means beating into submission, can you believe you’re less likely to succeed at weightloss? Yes the scientific data says loving your body with enough hydration, rest, nutrient dense food, an occasional unhealthy but so yummy treat and the healthy hormones released when you exercise with intensity are fabulous for your health and better for weightloss.. Starving your body, over-working it and telling yourself about how your various bits aren’t up to par is horrible for your body and your emotional health and actually inhibits weightloss and may even foster illness.

This year, can we resolve to work out smarter instead of harder and be kind to our bodies? I’m ready. So here’s my challenge to you: This year don’t join a gym, and blow it out on the treadmill and dry ryvita crackers for 3 weeks and give up by March.. Just pick one thing. ONE small thing you could commit to for the rest of 2019 that might make a difference and stick to that one thing.

Here are some examples: (Feel free to come up with your own…but only ONE..and make it small and achievable)

  • I will drinking a glass of water every day before breakfast.
  • I commit to walking for 10 minutes every day.
  • I commit to a one minute meditation or mantra of gratitude every day.
  • I commit to learning to do something besides a bicep curl with dumbells
  • I will learn to do one pushup.
  • I will join a workout group and attend each of my 6 sessions (okay I had to throw that in there) as a way to kick start making fitness part of my lifestyle.

 

Exercise, Q&A

Kayla’s Functional Fitness for Small Groups

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Sometimes I get asked what type of training we do in the Small Groups and how it works.  The short answer is that I focus mainly on exercises which prepare my clients for a great quality of life and ease in their activities of daily living. Professionals sometimes use the term functional training.

This type of training is different than what you may find in big box gyms with lots of metal equipment. Often those machines train you in a seated position, isolating one particular muscle and work you in the sagittal plane of motion- front and back or up and down. But in life, we work in many planes of motion: side to side, twisting, as well as front and back and up and down pushing and pulling (sometimes simultaneously). So most of the activities we do in small group training are performed from a standing position and use multiple muscle groups in a variety of planes of motion. Our activities of daily living require strength with flexibility, stability of the core and stamina. My training focuses on preparing you for those activities of daily living. You also develop the knowledge and attunement to safely progress or modify any fitness class or activity to your body and its unique strengths or limitations.

We often cover exercise basics: Squats, lunges, push-ups, bicep curls, planks and crunches as well as pilates and yoga-based floor moves with and without dumbells, kettlebells, a barbell, or bands. Sometimes we use TRX suspension trainers, sometimes Bosu Balls or Stability balls. We mix it up, and we modify based on your own fitness level and goals and the goals of the group.

Some groups have prenatal and post-natal clients for whom crunches aren’t appropriate. Alternatives are given and coached. Some people have knee or back issues and cannot safely lunge so exercises are modified or substituted or the range of motion is limited. Others are very fit and need more of a challenge so plyometrics and heavier weights or multi-planar movements are given. Sometimes groups are comprised of women in similar age groups or with similar ability levels but oftentimes there’s a mix of ability levels and ages and it works out just fine with everyone getting a fun, safe and effective workout with the coaching of a personal trainer and the camaraderie of a group.

Generally most groups work full body- mostly strength with a little bit of cardio (dancing/kickboxing/jumprope) or with cardio performed via peripheral heart action by moving both lower and upper body at the same time. Most groups prefer to see a demo of the exercise and then work the same muscle group at the same time with a variety of modifications/progressions for individuals. Each class is roughly choreographed to appropriate tempo music. I demonstrate each one before we begin and work the full body. (Groups meeting twice a week may do an upper/lower body split or a push/pull split). Sometimes there are partner drills. Some group sessions are structured where participants work at their own pace against the clock doing as many repetitions as possible of a particular exercise or series of exercises before the timer expires. Other sessions have you rotate through training stations so nobody is doing the same exercise as you while you’re doing it. One thing is sure: it’s never exactly the same each time. You will gain strength, flexibility endurance and maybe a friend or two.