Ask Stew: What Are You Doing to Avoid Illness While Working?

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(DVIDS Photo by G. Anthonie Riis/Fort Knox)

If you are in the fitness industry (or any business, really), staying healthy is part of the job.

During this time of quarantined isolation and shelter-in-place orders, working as a trainer (whether for individuals or groups) becomes rather difficult, for obvious reasons. However, some trainers may still be able to do training online or in special home locations.

Here is a question from a former Marine who is working in the fitness industry now, asking basic questions on staying healthy and mitigating circumstances that spread illness.

Hey, Stew. I am a Marine who is now in the fitness industry. I'm just curious what you are doing these days with training groups and avoiding getting sick during this pandemic. I have obviously listened to the medical professionals on this, but do you have any advice on getting some work in during this time without the risk of getting sick or spreading illness inadvertently? Thanks! Sgt Bob.

My first piece of advice is to take this seriously and listen to the medical professionals, then try to figure out creative ways that you can still train and work with people.

Here are the things I am doing to still train, write about training and stay healthy in this unprecedented situation:

1. My Own Workouts

I am still training at home with basic home gym equipment (dumbbells, kettlebells, barbell, bench, pull-up bar, sandbags and TRX). I am doing some running as well, but I'm keeping to every other day with an upper body, lower body and mobility workout in a three-day split routine.

My goal is to not overtax my body and central nervous system so that I keep my immune system strong. Avoid overexertion for yourself and clients. Avoiding the virus is the goal, not setting a new personal record (PR) in some exercise. Eat well. Sleep well. Take your vitamins too!

2. Try online coaching

If you have the ability, make blog posts and videos, and post them on social media or your own website. Have the option to do online coaching, where you develop weekly workouts for people and regularly discuss their progress and situation. Many people like the accountability factor of checking in with a trainer, but prefer to do the workouts on their own time. I have been training people online for more than 20 years. It is fun and keeps you in the coaching world without leaving your home.

3. Outdoor small group training (running)

I still meet a local group to go running during the week, but we work to stay spread out over a 4- to 6-mile run. I have found that I am doing a little more than my normal progression, so we have been running more on trails, grass, sand and turf where available to avoid some of the impact of pavement running.

4. Avoid public spaces

If you can get outside and run and keep your distance from each other, you can mitigate the risk. Avoid unnecessary stops at stores along the journey. Personally, I rarely leave my home and do not do personal training anymore, but I haven't for decades.

5. Limit shopping to weekly

Like I said, I rarely leave the house, other than a local run or grocery shopping. My father lives with me, so my personal goal is to keep people in my family from bringing germs back into the house so he can avoid the virus altogether.

6. Wear a mask in public, wash your hands and use antiseptic mouthwash regularly

Stay clean and avoid spreading germs.

7. Avoid coughing

Many people have a habit cough and do not even know it. Post-nasal sinus drip, allergies or the aftereffects of a lung infection can cause a lingering cough that persists during the day, but does not occur during sleep.

Coughing is basically an aerosol spray of germs. You may not even know you are a carrier of the virus, and any cough that is uncovered could be dangerous to another person in the room.

With spring allergy season in bloom, practice not coughing and/or cover coughs as ways to prevent spread of the virus. If you think you have a habit cough, check out Dr. Miles Weinberger's peer-reviewed research and methods to cure it. However, if you are congested with a fever, make sure you get tested and avoid people altogether.

There are many things we as citizens can do to avoid getting sick and to prevent spreading this illness. If you must leave home to work, take seriously the tips above to help you mitigate the illness.

There is no need to panic. Simply be alert and cautious with both situational awareness and personal internal awareness, just as you would when you were a Marine patrolling in a combat zone.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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