When Colds and Allergies Run Amuck

One last thought on some unsightly, and sometimes unsanitary, behaviors. Sure, every facility has experienced the typical “gross” incidents — clogged toilets, overly sweaty spin bikes and members who produce massive amounts of hair in your locker room — and learned the best way to deal with them, but what about that time of year when colds and allergies run amuck?

Well, last week I found myself in an interesting, although fairly common predicament. After feeling fine the night before, I woke up with a nasty head cold. My nose was runny, my brain was foggy, and I had a full day of work ahead of me at the magazine. Knowing that I'd have to teach my kickboxing class that evening, I tried to take it easy, eat well and drink my fluids, hoping that I could save my energy. Well, after spending a fuzzy day at work, I made it home in time to take an hour-long “power nap” (most of my power naps are 15-20 minutes, but when you're not feeling well, extreme measures must be taken). I woke from the snooze feeling slightly groggy, but generally revived. I put on my brightest workout gear, in hopes of at least appearing to be healthy, and headed out to the gym.

After starting the warm-up I knew I was in for the longest hour of my life. With just a few low-impact movements I was already sweating and out of breath. I knew there was no hope. I'd have to bring out the secret group instructor trick. When you feel like you're not going to make it through your own class you can do one of two things: 1) walk around A LOT or 2) break out the circuit. Since I seemed to have a particularly energy-draining cold I went with the second option. I set up five stations that ranged from squats and sidekicks to hook-jab combos, anything to get my students moving and give myself a break. An hour later I stumbled out of the studio feeling exhausted, but proud that I made it through.

But was it really good for my class participants? Sure, I said encouraging things to keep up their intensity, but after getting home and looking at myself in the mirror, I realized I may have done more harm than good — and not only to myself. My Rudolph-like nose was red from the blowing, my eyes were bloodshot from the effort and my skin wasn't exactly glowing from the workout. Although I made sure to wash my hands before class and tried not to touch anyone, I'm sure my germs got passed around.

Now why did I insist on teaching? Well, finding a specialty class sub eight hours before a class starts is no easy task, and honestly, I love teaching and didn't want to miss giving my regulars, and myself, a good workout. How many of your members do you think are just like me and put their health and full-recovery aside for their usual feel-good workout? Plenty.

I remember one yoga class from a particularly rough flu season that had members mastering the “dance of sneeze residue avoidance” while one sneezing member was perfecting her Lord of the Dance pose. Then, there was the Kleenex junkie that for a two-week period couldn't leave any piece of cardio equipment without leaving behind a trail of used tissues. And, there was the forgetful member who unfortunately left his tissues at home (too bad the Kleenex junkie and this forgetful member weren't at the club at the same time!), and instead used his towel repeatedly.

Although they may be working out, your members and sometimes your staff don't always take time out when their health needs it. They enjoy their runner's high, they like spending time with others who love fitness and, for your regular members, it's part of their routine. Educating your members and staff that it's okay to take a day or two off when you're under the weather is important, as is having tissues available, cleaning equipment frequently and putting up reminders to wash hands and cover your mouth when sneezing.

And, speaking from personal experience, having an updated sub list sure does help when health disasters hit the group exercise studio, as does the reassurance that instead of giving my kickboxers a mediocre, sniffling workout, I can rest up, get better and give them the best workout of their lives. That is after one week of sleep, cold medicine and lots of nose blowing.

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