In Sickness and in Health

February 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Health and Fitness

By Don Otis –

I was minding my own business while running on a treadmill at the gym. The guy on the machine next to me began hacking. He coughed and sneezed through several miles. This raises a question regarding health, safety, and consideration for your fellow gym members.

Being the obsessive-compulsive person that I am, I already wash my hands more than most, open bathroom doors with a paper towel, and try to avoid sneezers and coughers. Perhaps knowledge is power or maybe it’s just something that assaults us with unwanted thoughts regarding our vulnerability. For example, did you know that when you sneeze, the air moves at 100 miles per hour and unleashes 10,000 bacteria and 5,000 droplets (I have no idea who counts these)?

If you are sick and still want to do a workout, go outdoors or someplace where others won’t be placed at risk of your cold or flu. While this seems fairly evident, for many people in our narcissistic culture, thinking about the welfare of others is the last thing on their minds.

In a gym setting, be aware that equipment, handles, buttons, knobs, and doors carry bacteria to avoid. Wipe down equipment if you sweat on it like I do. If you remind yourself that a third of all men refuse to wash their hands after using the bathroom, it may help change your habits in public places like gyms.

Aside from the obvious, germs and bacteria, other risks abound. For example, while riding my mountain bike this past weekend I discovered that a man had died on one of the downhill sections of the trail. He was riding without a helmet. He had a seizure; fell off his bike and struck his head on a rock. He died, not from the seizure, but from the head injury he sustained. If you ride a bike, even if you just plan to do it for leisure, wear a helmet. If you see kids without helmets, encourage them to put one on. And speaking of helmets…

I was climbing Longs Peak outside Denver this summer, near the summit is a section called the Trough. There can be dozens of people in this steep section at any one time, dislodging rocks that gain momentum as they hurl down. Rather than wearing helmets, I saw many climbers taking their chances, and I wondered whether this form of Russian roulette was worth the risk. One bloodied and mangled face is all it takes change our perception of safety.

For those of us who love the outdoors, it’s never possible to eliminate all risks. If you run, be aware of your environment. I have run in areas where there are grizzly bears, mountain lions, and moose. If you run or ride in an urban area, I encourage you not to wear ear buds, but be aware of what’s happening around you–people, cars, sirens, dogs.

Finally, be prepared in case of emergencies. A fall on a high peak in the Rockies last year reminded me that accidents happen without warning. You have to anticipate the possibilities without being deterred from the activity. We can become complacent and forget that bad things can happen, even if we have hiked this trail, run this course, or ridden this route.

Stay safe and enjoy the journey!

About Don S. Otis

Don S. Otis is a personal trainer, the author of five books, including Staying Fit after 40. He stays active by running, climbing, mountain biking, and lifting weights. Don is the founder of Veritas Communications, a Christian publicity and marketing agency based in Canon City, CO.

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