by Geoff Rand

I’d bet many of us grew up being told that we’d catch a cold if we went outside without a hat on in the winter.  While there is a connection between weather and colds, exposure to cold weather itself is not what causes you to become sick.  The Rhinovirus, or common cold, peaks in spring and fall.  Influenza, or the flu, peaks in the winter months of November to March.

Some studies show that outer shells of Rhinovirus cells become tougher in colder weather, and this helps the virus survive longer.  And, it has been found to replicate more easily in cooler temperatures than warmer ones.

Because of the uncomfortable temperatures, humans naturally migrate indoors during colder months.  The dry indoor air has been shown to protect the aerosol droplets we sneeze and cough into the air, and poor ventilation coupled with longer durations of close proximity adds up to increased chances to catch a cold.

We are extremely fortunate to have such a clean Box to workout in.  Dave and Amanda and the other coaches do an outstanding job at keeping our space and equipment looking great.  But as the seasons change and colder weather moves in, so does the cold and flu season.  No amount of cleaning is going to kill all the germs.  It is up to each of us to do our part to keep from getting sick and passing our germs onto others.  Taking a few easy prevention measures will help make sure you, and everyone else in the Box, stays healthy.

Keep your hands clean.  Hand washing is one of the most effective ways to avoid spreading germs.  Use hot water and soap for at least 20 seconds.  Wash your hands after working out and definitely before eating or drinking anything.  Use an alcohol based hand sanitizer between hand washings or when you aren't able to wash your hands.

Wipe down the equipment.  Take a few seconds and wipe that barbell, kettlebell, wallball, or pullup bar before you leave.  It wouldn’t hurt to wipe it down before you use it just in case the last person forgot to disinfect it.

Cover it up.  While open wounds won’t make you catch the flu, you could get an infection at any time of the year if the wrong bacteria enters a compromised skin barrier.  Take care of your hands to prevent rips and tears, and cover up wounds if you do tear.  Definitely wipe down everything you touch if you tear a hand.

Don’t touch your face.  Germs can live for days on surfaces that we touch.  When you touch your face you are transmitting those germs to your eyes, nose, and mouth, all of which are gateways into the body.

Mind your cough or sneeze.  Use the crook of your elbow or pull out your collar to cover your cough or sneeze instead of your hand.  Don't cough or sneeze into the open air.

Replenish.  When we work out, we deplete the amino acid glutamine, which is a necessary component of a healthy immune system.  Make sure you have a recovery meal soon after working out to keep your glutamine levels up.

Live well.  Adequate sleep, hydration, and nutrition also helps keep your immune system functioning properly and in top shape to fight off colds.  If your diet is garbage, you're dehydrated, and you haven't had adequate recovery time, your immune system will likely be crap too.

Be aware of other common sources of germs like door handles, hand rails, your steering wheel, your keyboard, and your phone.  When was the last time you disinfected your cell phone?  And no, wiping it on your butt does not count.

Stay home.  If you’ve got anything green coming out of you, you have an infection.  See a doctor and keep it to yourself until you’re over it.  If you’re that sick, you probably won’t feel like working out anyway.

Other Tips.  Step outside from time to time while at work to get some fresh air and get away from the stale, bacteria laden air filling the office.  Hold your breath for 10-15 seconds when you hear someone cough or sneeze near you.  It might help to prevent you from breathing in their germs.  Many people swear by beefing up on vitamin C intake during cold season.  It can help fortify your immune system.  Avoid excessive alcohol intake as this can suppress your immune system.

Vaccinate.  It’s your choice if you decide to get the flu shot or not.  Any nurse or doctor is going to tell you to get the flu shot every year.  The CDC recommends that everyone over 6 months old and especially anyone who has frequent contact with children get the vaccine.  People over 50 and those who may become pregnant during the flu season are also among those that are at elevated risk and are highly encouraged to get the shot.

By following these common sense practices, you can prevent yourself and others from becoming sick during the cold season.  The WODs don't stop just because it's cold outside.  Be ready for whatever the cold season throws at you.

Sources:

http://greatist.com/fitness/are-germs-gym-making-you-sick

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/10/06/avoid-cold_n_5941184.html

http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/fitness/can-you-get-sick-from-the-gym.html

http://www.businessinsider.com/why-you-get-sick-in-winter-2015-10

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