Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sleep It Off Or Sweat It Out?

When it comes to treating a cold, that seems to be the question.

Whether 'tis smarter to crash in bed, bundle up and let the virus take its course and hopefully flee, or hit the gym, raising the body temperature, jump-starting circulation, thereby taking arms against this bug, and by opposing it, ending it?

Experience shows me that there is no pat answer for that problem. As a kid, I used to push through almost anything, refusing to let a runny nose stop me. When practicing karate, my old instructor and my classmates were firm believers in sweating it out. We would do hard and fast repetitions of forms, and lots of free sparring.

My instructor, Phil Suffredini, took pride in being a sadistic son-of-a-bitch, but he never asked anyone to do anything he wouldn't do. Only once did I see an illness slow him down.

But as I got older, I realized that training with others while sick was a great way to spread disease. Also, as I got older, I found I couldn't do a lot of the things I did as a teenager. I developed allergies and asthma, partly as a result of living in Florida. As I tell newcomers to the Sunshine State, if you didn't have allergies before, you'll develop them now. It's part of the price we pay for having a growing season that's 10 months long.

I also suffered from a large, benign tumor in one of my sinuses for several years. By benign, I mean it wasn't cancerous. It caused me a lot of other health problems, including chronic and recurring ear and sinus infections. It also deprived me of my sense of taste and smell, and affected my hearing. I learned to read lips without even realizing it.

Thankfully, the tumor was removed and my health including my senses of smell, taste and hearing, were restored. But it did make me very cautious. Every time I started to get a sniffle, I'd be hitting the sack and consuming mass quantities of vitamins and medicine to head off a potential infection.

My point is, there has to be a middle ground. I don't think it's a good idea to work out when you're sick, but I do think you can sweat it out if you catch it early enough. Gichin Funakoshi, considered by many to be the Father of Modern Karate, wrote in his biography, "Karate-Do: My Way of Life," that he rarely suffered colds. When he felt one coming on, he would do some hard runs of his katas to sweat it out.

I tried that this past Friday, but still got sick. For four days, I let discretion be the better part of valor. I rested. I ate little. And I consumed mass quantities of chicken soup and grapefruit juice.

I got better, but still felt a little sniffly today. I decided to "take arms" and sweat out the last of this bug.

Hitting my kwoon, I started with a full-body stretch. Afterward, I did a good 25-minute run of the Siu Lam Tao (Little Idea) form, or as Don likes to call it, Saam Bai Fut (Three Prayers to Buddha).

The stretching and the form did a lot to bring me back to life, to get my energy going again. But not wanting to push it, I closed with a mini-circuit of the ab wheel, claw pushups, the Chum Kiu, Biu Jee and Mook Yan Johng forms.

So far, I feel pretty good. But I'm still going to finish this half gallon of grapefruit juice sitting next to me, the fifth I've drunk in as many days.

1 comment:

  1. Hope you're mostly past your cold, by the time you read this; I'm feeling a bit of a sore throat today myself, along with fatigue, but I think that it is more stress than a cold coming on.

    To put myself in a better frame of mind, I went for a motorcycle ride to the seashore. Amazing how soothing it is to sit there, and listen to the sound of the waves, and smell the sea. If you have such a place not far from where you live, it might help.