This has been one of the coldest, most bitter winters in Boston in decades. And there are actually records to back that up. A couple weeks ago, we had a temperature on a specific day that hadn't been recorded so low since 1875.
A lot of you are familiar with extremely frigid weather, but let me enlighten those of you who are not. In windy places, and Boston is actually windier than Chicago (stop living a lie, Chi Town!), we have something called the wind chill factor.
That means if the actual temperature is zero degrees, with some decent gusts it can feel like thirty below zero. At thirty degrees below zero, your skin can freeze in less than five minutes of exposure.
You could urinate and make frozen golden arches in tribute to McDonald's. Leave Rover out all night by accident and you will wake up to a dogsicle. In some countries, that's considered a delicacy, though it takes a while to lick off all the hair and get to the good stuff.
And if you happen to have big Dumbo ears that stick out, just walk around outside without a hat on for about an hour. At that point, a buddy can simply chip away the excess ear tissue to give you a makeover that doesn't even involve new teeth and a stylist to tell you what a bum you dress like.
When the winters are extra cold like this, the influenza virus, more commonly known as "that flu thing that makes you hurl and feel like total crap for a couple weeks," seems to blossom and spread like that catchy Outkast song, "Hey Ya."
I have been fortunate so far that neither I, my wife, or my two children, both of whom attend those teeming virus farms known as public schools, has come down with the flu. My young protégé Randy was not so lucky, as I learned on leg day last week.
I got to the gym a few minutes before he did, as was often the case. As such, I didn't see him walk in. He walked, or should I say shuffled, into the room with the squat racks and power cage, as I was starting to warm up on squats.
Right away I sensed something was amiss, as he usually bounced around like a toddler high on Coca Cola and Rugrats fruit snacks. That manic energy was not with him today. His eyes also appeared a little listless and dull.
"What's up, do you feel okay?"
"Ah, I'll be fine, I just need to warm up and get in the groove," he replied, gesturing as if there was nothing to be alarmed about. I took a step forward and put the back of my hand on his forehead.
"Huh!" I exclaimed. "You're already warm. Have you taken your temperature?"
"Yeah," he said, starting to load a forty-five on each side of a bar in the free rack next to the one I was using. "It was like a hundred, but I took some Ibuprofen about an hour ago and it's going down."
"Take the weights off," I sternly ordered him.
"I would do it myself, but I don't want what you've got. I'm pretty sure you have the flu, kid," I told him.
He tried to argue with me on that, but quickly he realized I was probably right.
"Well, if it's just starting, I can still train today before it gets really bad."
I shook my head at his stubbornness. The worst thing was that I saw so much of myself in his cavalier attitude. I had been there and done that, with nasty consequences.
I gestured for him to sit down, then sat myself a few feet away. I didn't want to breathe in his pesky little flu bug any more than I wanted to pick it up handling the same equipment as he did.
"I admire your dedication and refusal to let anything stand in your way," I began, which elicited a proud smile from Randy. "But in this case, you have to do the right thing, and that is to go home now and rest your body instead of beating it up with the weights.
I have tried to train sick many times, and it never had a positive outcome. Even when I managed to dig down deep and pull off a good workout despite having a bad cold or a flu, it always made the illness worse.
That's because your body is already working hard trying to fight the infection. Then, when you put it through a tough workout, or even a not so tough workout, you are doing nothing but diverting the limited resources of your immune system when they are most badly needed to protect you."
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"Ron, no disrespect, but you're not a doctor," Randy noted.
"I know. I don't even play one on T.V. So I invite you to get to your physician as soon as he or she has an appointment, and ask them what they think. If they don't say something similar to what I just told you, you can come on back later and I will personally load your weights for you. Of course, I will be wearing a surgical mask, latex gloves, and spraying you in the face with Lysol after every set."
Randy thought about it, his face grim. "I just hate to miss any training, you know?"
"Randy," I laughed, "who do you think you're talking to? I am the type who would be on my deathbed wondering if I could squeeze in one last arm workout so my guns would be pumped in the Afterlife! Listen, a wise warrior chooses his battles carefully.
Rather than go fight a battle you absolutely can't win, you are always better off staying away and living to fight another day. Of course, this does not apply to the Lord of the Rings movies, but you don't have Gandolf to rescue your ass."
Randy put his weights away. He clearly wasn't happy to do this, but I knew that now he understood my reasoning. If he tried to push his body when it was in such a vulnerable state, the results could be disastrous.
If instead, he stayed away from the gym and rested, Randy would get healthy sooner and be back into the gym to continue his quest for bodybuilding glory.
It's been almost a week, and in Randy's last e-mail he said he was starting to feel a lot better. To be on the safe side, he needs to wait a couple more days and then return to the gym and gradually build back up to his normal intensity levels. I felt good.
This was definitely one of those "do as I say, not as I do" situations, as I found it hard to follow my own advice much of the time. Now, if I happen to get sick, at least I will have Randy to nag me into keeping out of the gym.
Together with my wife, that should rate a 7.9 on the Nagometer, and few men can disobey admonishment of that magnitude.