Illness and Exercise: the Dilemma

Maybe these will help?

With the crazy Kansas weather swinging from snowing to 70 degrees to frost on car windows in the span of a long weekend, seems like everyone I know is battling some sort of sickness. How does a sniffley gym-mouse know when to suck it up and when to call it quits?

Above the Neck

Only have a headache, stuffy nose and sneezing? If symptoms appear “above the neck,” there’s no reason to stop exercising, damnitall. Moderate exercise many unfortunately relieve mild symptoms and give the immune system a slight boost to help fight off minor illnesses. Notice:  moderate, mild, and minor. If exercise makes symptoms worse, back off.

Below the Neck

Chest congestion, painful coughing, fever, body aches or fatigue? You’re in luck! No exercise for you! Take the day (or a few days) off. Rest and unrestrained couch surfing recovery represent vital aspects of a healthy fitness routine. Maybe your body desperately craves rest. My annoying body does this on a semi-regular basis, most recently, the better part of last week. “You won’t rest? I’ll make you so sick, you’re forced to rest!” Thanks body, appreciate it.

Protein Cannibalism Catabolism

Ever wondered why your muscles ache when you’re ill? Oh, the useless interesting things you learn while “researching.”

Normally the body derives most of its energy from fat and glucose (stored carbohydrates). However, when we get feverish, it starts breaking down muscle protein to help fuel the fight against infection. The amount of protein loss, or muscle catabolism, directly relates to how high and long the fever is maintained. No wonder muscles feel sore when you’re sick, your body literally eats away at them.

Dealt with sickness and exercise this winter? Have any illness-related workout policies? Ditch the gym at the first sniffle? Refuse to abandon the gym despite that pesky stomach virus?


Photo credit: Jaysun via Flickr

In case any of you labored under false impressions, I am not a doctor. This post compiles my personal experience and education, as well as some research from the all-knowing interwebs. It should never replace the advice of people who actually know what they’re talking about trained, licensed doctors or professionals.


Zealous Zumba


Zumba Zombies! Chomp brains without missing a beat!

Those unfortunate enough to know me in real life realize I have an obsession. I have fallen in love with Zumba® (Like that little ®? I’m required to use it the first time I use the word Zumba on a web page. Wouldn’t want to lose my pitiful beautiful paper Zumba license over a silly ®.) I currently teach 4 classes each week, possibly 6+ in the near future. I like Zumba. It’s possibly moved to addiction status.

Mostly, I enjoy Zumba because desperate flailing movement isn’t limited to only forward and backward actions like when running, biking, or ellipticalling. Limbs can flail wild and unrestrained in any direction, and if I like one thing, it’s wildly flailing limbs. Not to mention the booty and boobie shaking. A proper Zumba class includes inordinate amounts of jiggling. Sounds like my kind of party Zumba class.

For those unfamiliar with Zumba who have persevered this far and weren’t scared away by the jiggling and flailing, Zumba fitness is a cardio workout that incorporates part Latin dance, part club gyration,  and part cult followingcombined into a sneaky workout. At the beginning of class, the teacher cranks up the stereo, and the out-of-control thrashing and wiggling commences. An hour later, a group of people resembling half-drowned cats emerges from the room,grinning uncontrollably. On a good night, when the class dances mostly the same move at almost the same time, we look like Zumba zombies sexy background dancers in a Beyoncé video.

Caution: Attending Zumba class may teach you how to move your hips, grove to the music, and feel exceedingly sexy. Talk to your doctor to see if Zumba is right for you.

Ever attended a Zumba class? Thought about it? Heard of it? Thoughts about gyrating booties and/or boobie shaking?

(Image credit: Cimm)

Lazy Pizza

I don’t cook. In the evenings as my husband drives home from work, he whispers a little prayer that his worthless wonderful wife has thrown something resembling food in the oven. Poor man. He didn’t pick me for my cooking.  Or my cleaning. Not really sure what his angle was…

Anyway! I dislike recipes with more than 10 ingredients. Actually, the closer the number of ingredients to zero, the better. Same with prep and cook time. So imagine my incredible joy when I discovered flatbread pizzas, little personal-sized pizzas that take 5 minutes to make, 15 minutes to bake, and only as many toppings as you feel like using.

Most difficult and time consuming: finding flatbread at the grocery store. This step took approximately three weeks, due to my lazy and procrastinating tendencies single-minded focus on my goals. I finally found it on accident, as I stood drooling over the various delicious-smelling breads in the bakery. As I reached down to wipe away some lustful slobber test the integrity of a loaf, I noticed a package of flatbread nearby.

Back in my kitchen, I set the oven to 450. A lower temperature might work, but that requires longer cooking time. Unacceptable! As a haphazard forward-thinking cook, I grab some ingredients that don’t sound hideous together carefully select toppings that complement and enhance one another. I end up with tomato sauce, shredded cheese, green onions and mushrooms.

This masterpiece takes only 15 minutes in the oven, so precook any meat. Notice I used no meat, eliminating a time-consuming step. Genius.

Delicious! Gorgeous! The most amazing 20-minute meal I’ve ever created!

Ever made personal-sized pizzas before? Sounds amazingly delightful? Disgusting? Suggestions for toppings? Suggest something crazy enough, (and I remember to buy the ingredients) I just might try it out and post about it. *hint?*

Dreadmills, Spandex Shorts, and Group Treadmill Dancing

Remember that post where I pretended to be am a badass runner? Well, after that amazingly endorphin-filled 5k, I failed to sign up for another, and my running routine diminished. I, of course, feel completely relaxed disappointed in myself. About the time I planned to hit the pavement again, the temperature plummeted and snow blanketed the sidewalks. Oh darn. I feel so elated disappointed.

The thought of returning to the treadmill crossed my mind. Very briefly. 5k on a dreadmill guarantees the most excruciating 30 minutes of your life. Running is not my favorite. Running and going nowhere flat-out sucks. I try to distract myself with amazing playlists, outrageous TV, and checking out my hot bod in the mirror people watching. But even the guy running next to me and shooting pics of himself on his camera-phone can’t lessen the pain of the dreadmill.

Perhaps I should try one of these treadmill workouts:

Treadmill Dancing:

Group Exercise, Treadmill Dancing:

Some hot dude and a treadmill:

What was that video about again? I remember only glistening biceps and spandex shorts… Why did men in spandex shorts ever fall out of style?

Perhaps I should just pull out my coldgear running clothes, and hide in my closet suck it up, and venture into the frigid winter air.

How do you feel about dreadmills, running in the cold, and/or men in spandex shorts?

I Heart You

❤ !

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in America. So the country made February American Heart Month. The same month as Valentine’s Day, when lacy, pink hearts float through our consciousness and sweethearts adoringly exchange heart-shaped boxes of chocolate. Excuse me while I visit the waste basket. How adorable.

So I despise Valentine’s Day and pink, lacy hearts. But I love the fist-sized organ in my chest and want it to continue beating. Engage in the following seven behaviors to strengthen your heart and lower risk of heart disease

  1. Exercise: At least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on at least three days of the week significantly lowers risk of heart disease. Notice: at least. That means get your flabby butt off the couch exercise longer and more often to further strengthen that lovely, bloody organ.
  2. Eat a heart-healthy diet: Diet, as in what you eat every day, not eating only grapefruit for a week to drop weight quickly. According to the American Heart Association, we’re talking more than 4.5 cups of fruits and veggies, three 1-ounce servings of whole grain, and limiting sodium to less than 1,500 mg daily. Fewer delicious processed foods help too.
  3. Maintain healthy weight: Numbers 1 and 2 help with this one.
  4. Don’t smoke: Or chew. Or inhale second-hand smoke. Avoid tobacco all together, actually.
  5. Manage blood pressure: Follow all previous numbers, practice stress management, and don’t be African-American. Apparently hypertension is racist. More than 40% of African-Americans have high blood pressure, compared to only 30% of the general population.
  6. Control Cholesterol: Previous numbers apply (notice a pattern yet?). Also limit fat intake to less than 30% of total calories. Avoid saturated and trans fat in particular.
  7. Monitor blood sugar levels: High blood sugar or inability of the body to process glucose can lead to a sugary-sweet disposition prediabetes or diabetes, significantly raising risks for heart disease. Numbers 1 through 3 help regulate blood sugar.

Do you practice any of these heart-strengthening activities? Facing challenges in any of these areas? Hate Valentine’s Day as much as I do?


  • Yoke, Mary M. Personal Fitness Training: Theory and Practice. Aerobics and Fitness Association of America.
  • American Heart Association. 2012. American Heart Association. 7 Feb 2012. <>.

Image Credit: asirap via Flicker

Dear Diary

Dear Diary

“Today I ate a frosted pop tart for breakfast, a hot pocket for lunch and half a large cheese pizza for dinner. Then I thought about going to the gym, but decided to zone out on the boob tube relax instead. I can’t figure out why I’m not losing weight!”

Hopefully your diet doesn’t actually look like this. However, recording your food intake in a food diary can make you honestly evaluate your eating habits, develop goals, and track your progress.

Metal Brains

Our minds are more like aluminum foil than steel traps. Our selective memories recall those three broccoli sprouts at dinner, but conveniently forget the bag of chips munched on throughout the entire episode of Jersey Shore a modern urban documentary. By recording every morsel that enters your mouth, you may realize how much mindless snacking occurs. That handful of M&Ms and five pretzels and cookie or two adds up to a lot of food.

Details, Details

How in depth should a food diary go? Include as many details as you want.

I used a spiral notebook as one of my first diaries. The date topped each page followed by a simple list of food. Cereal and 2% milk, chicken alfredo with broccoli, etc. At the time, I simply listed what I ate, not how much or when.

How much you eat matters. One slice of apple or the entire fruit? One bowl of cereal or eight? It makes a difference. Tracking how many servings or cups or slices of each food will make you aware of where to improve. Maybe you want to decrease your slices of pizza, but increase slices of watermelon.

Recording the times you eat can help determine trends in over-eating. Are you more likely to grab an unhealthy option late at night? Right after work? Do you skip breakfast, then stuff your face over-indulge at lunch? Recording the times you eat can help uncover these tendencies.

The Change-up

Once you know what needs to change, maintaining a food diary helps track progress and keeps you accountable. If it goes in your mouth, it goes in the diary. Does the thought of recording that entire block of cheddar cheese in the diary make you cringe? You’ll think twice before shoveling it in.

Do you keep a food diary or know someone who does? Have you (or they) found success with this tool? What do you think of this diary mumbo-jumbo? Silly? Ridiculous? Ingenious?

Photo credit: jjpracres via Flickr

Touch Your Toes

Ruth the Acrobat

Whoa Ruth, slow it down.

Perhaps Ruth took it too far, but flexibility training represents something else to avoid at the gym an important and often neglected aspect of fitness. Many people step off the elliptical or lay down their weights and consider their workout over, missing the awesome benefits of stretching:

  • Lowered risk of injury – Through daily activity, muscles become tighter, shortening joint range of motion and leading to greater risk of pulls or tears.
  • Decreased stress – Stretching encourages muscle relaxation, deep breathing and other Zen stuff, further supporting the stress-reducing effects of exercise.
  • Improved posture – Postural muscles, especially those of the lower back, become tight and inflexible, pulling the body out of alignment and causing pain.
  • Reduced muscles soreness – Stretching after a workout reduces possible future soreness and stretching already sore muscles hurts like hell alleviates discomfort.
  • Increased ability to complete everyday activities – With greater range of motion and more aligned posture, completing everyday activities supposedly becomes easier and less painful.

Stretching increases the resting length of muscles around a joint. Of course, the more often stretches are completed, the more flexible a person becomes. Less stretching = less flexibility. Muscle length can increase when stretching 2 or 3 times per week, while stretching 5 to 7 days each week is overachieving optimal.

Stretches should be held to the point of discomfort, but not pain. Sharp or intense pain indicates horrible flexibility stretching beyond the capacity of the muscle and higher injury risk. Hold each stretch until you want to cry for at least 20 seconds.

Possible times for stretching:

  • In the morning – Perform a short warm-up before stretching. Muscles tighten at night and possibility of injury is greater immediately after waking.
  • After exercise – Muscles warmed from a full training session stretch deeper than those heated from a simple warm-up. Also, stretching muscles worked during exercise decreases excruciating pain soreness the following day.
  • After a warm shower or bath – Stretching muscles still pliable from hot water feels relaxing and peaceful.
  • Before bed – As part of an evening routine, stretching unwinds the body and places the mind in a calm state, allowing sleep to arrive faster.

Do you stretch? What are your favorite stretches or favorite times to stretch? Do you have any chronically tight muscles?

Source: Yoke, Mary M. Personal Fitness Training: Theory and Practice. Aerobics and Fitness Association of America.

Image credit: Library of Congress

Fall of the Great Food Pyramid

Food Guide Pyramid

The Original.

Remember the Food Guide Pyramid? The U.S. Department of Agriculture developed it in 1992, for you nerds charming readers who enjoy these things. Eat more of food groups towards the bottom (grains, fruits, veggies) and fewer of the food groups near the top (fats & oils). So easy to understand. Why mess with a good thing, right?

Turns out, scientific research uncovered lots of boring information about nutrition, and the ol’ FGP no longer applied. The structure itself implies food groups at the top (fats & oils) hold no nutritional value, and must be minimized, if not eliminated. Smarty-pants scientists discovered the body actually requires healthy fats (mono & polyunsaturated) for glowing skin and hair. Other smart researchers determined that not all protein provides the same health benefits. For example, red meat packs tons of protein along with cholesterol and saturated (bad) fat. Chicken or fish offer leaner choices.  To solve these and other issues, some genius in the USDA introduced the following rainbow disaster icon named My Pyramid:

My Pyramid

Really? Who approved this?

That solves all the confusion. We understand the equal importance of every food group and now realize the merit of exercise. Everyone is happy. Except the poor elementary students who have to learn about this crazy new rainbow pyramid. Well, the grains stripe looks slightly larger than the milk stripe, so eat more of those? Fail.

Time for a complete re-do. Enter My Plate in 2011.

My Plate

MY Plate! Get your own!

No more attempting to translate some vague pyramid mumbo-jumbo into actual meals. Cut straight to the chase, and design my plate, damnit. The Plate still isn’t perfect. No mention of different types of grains (whole vs. refined), the fat food group completely disappeared (remember, healthy fats do exist), and exercise vanishes again. Despite these omissions, I think My Plate offers the most applicable and idiot proof easy to understand option of the three. Presented with this image, a person can immediately compare their own plate and make changes.

After all, distilling our complete nutrition requirements into a straightforward, memorable, colorful, easy to understand, striking and attractive image can’t be that hard.

What about you, my lovely followers? Thoughts on Pyramids or Plates and their progress? Or lack thereof?

Image Sources:

“1992 Food Guide Pyramid Graphics.” National Agriculture Library. 27 Sep 2011. United States Department of Agriculture. 14 Jan 2012. <>.

“Printable Materials & Ordering.” United States Department of Agriculture. 14 Jan 2012. <>.


“Food Pyramids and Plates: What Should You Really Eat?” Harvard School of Public Health. 2012. Harvard University. 14 Jan 2012. <>.

Lewis, Jaye. “The Food Pyramid: Its History, Effectiveness, and Purpose.” A 2 Z of Health, Beauty and Fitness. 14 Jan 2012. <>.

Random Roundup

Cattle Roundup

Roundup? Get it?

Stubborn post #5 refuses to write itself, the effer, and some dummy decided this should be a weekly blog, so I suppose I owe my lovely readers something. Enter the Roundup of Random Health-Related Webpages you might find informative. Or at least humorous.

Sitting is killing you. (Not to be melodramatic, or anything)

Sneaky nutrition labels make you think you’re eating healthy. Learn the devious lies word manipulation food companies use to trick you.

Study finds you only need 15 minutes of daily exercise. Too good to be true? Turns out it is…

The Worst (and most hilarious) Health Trends of 2011. The Shake Weight didn’t make me ripped. Neither did my toning shoes. Drat.

National Cry Yourself to Sleep Day

Scale Says Help!


Special K® deemed January 2nd “National Weigh-in Day.” A day when people across the United States step on their scales and weep over the number displayed. Really, Special K®? This seems like a horrible idea.

Supposedly, the “holiday” will make “stepping on the scale fun” (January, sec. 1). What?! We aren’t fooled, Special. We see through your marketing scam. At any rate, the aforementioned company states women obsess over the number on the scale, when they should focus on other facets of weight loss, like emotional gains. Ok, maybe that makes sense… So let’s create a holiday centered on weighing ourselves and then not obsess over the numbers… Wait…

Although slightly misguided, Special has a point. Simply counting pounds lost does not tell the entire story. Consider taking other measurements as well for a well-rounded account:

  • Belt notches: Time to cinch it in?
  • Soft tape measure: Measure circumference of waist (smallest part of torso), hip (largest part of butt), bicep, neck or whatever body part you want to watch shrink.
  • Fitness gains: Can you run farther, lift heavier things, or reach the top of the stairs without dying? You’re gaining cardiovascular and/or muscular strength.
  • Clothes: Fitting a little looser? Trousers falling off? (If so, refer to earlier note concerning belts)
  • Medical gains: Does your annual check-up reveal lower blood pressure, cholesterol, risk of diabetes or risk of heart disease? Make your doctor proud.
  • Mirror: Do you look different? Isn’t that the point of all this?

“Weight loss” should encompass much more than just a number on the scale. Recognizing other aspects will keep you from quitting motivated when the damn scale won’t move. Plus, with more measurements, you have more opportunities to celebrate.

What other ways do you measure “weight loss?” Thoughts on the creation of National Weigh-in Day?


Source: “January 2nd marked as National Weigh-in Day.” News Medical. 2 Jan. 2012. 2 Jan. 2012. <;

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