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Personal Training and Wellness Advice from Crux Fitness Richmond – WORKING OUT TO KEEP THE CORONAVIRUS AT BAY (Auto-Regulated Daily Undulating Periodization for Immune Function)

The coronavirus will become a pandemic.  Our efforts to quarantine the sick aren’t doing shit.  It’s not going away anytime soon – as a matter of fact, it’s getting worse!  We all need to accept the fact that at some point in the near future our immune systems will be put into overdrive to guard us from a snotty-nosed, diarrhea-driven death.  A huge majority of us with decent immune systems will survive, but the young, the elderly, and the immunocompromised exercise addicts will probably die in a pool of their own cold sweats and phlegm.  Here’s a blog post on how to survive.

Exercise is a hormetic stressor.  And like other hormetic stressors like cold or hunger, exercise in consistent low to moderate doses can increase our resilience.  Exercise in extreme doses though can actually weaken us (more on that later). For now, think about this: the post-exercise recovery process is mediated by the immune system.  Yup, that leg day soreness you felt last Tuesday was cleared away from your joints and muscles by your immune system!  Consistent low to moderate stressors lead to consistent positive physiological adaptations. So in the same way a muscle might grow due to daily mechanical (lifting heavy) or metabolic (lifting until the muscle burns a lot) stress, your immune system will improve from the daily stress of having to move inflammation and waste out of recovering joints and muscles.  But if you subject your body to a huge stressor, such as having to clear away the inflammation from a 90-minute long 1000-rep high intensity circuit training workout, you may redline your immune system.  As a matter of fact, there’s a lot of research out there demonstrating that highly intense bouts of exercise can lower markers of immune function. While this may be fine in non-pandemic times, and actually even lead to huge immune system gains if planned correctly (in the same way that HIIT can lead to huge cardio gains), it’s definitely not good practice RIGHT NOW when 70% of people you see on the street are wearing fucking face masks.  Currently it would be smart to leave some capacity for your immune system to put in work if needed. You don’t want to put extra stress on your immune system by placing on it the burden of having to recover from a highly intense workout. Instead, you should be training consistently at low to moderate intensities, but monitor your energy levels on a daily basis so that you might train hard on days that you feel highly energized.  So with that said, I channel all my inner elitist strength-and-conditioning-guru lingo and present to you: Auto-Regulated Daily Undulating Periodization for Immune Function.  Or in normal person talk, How to Choose Exercise Intensity So You Don’t Get Coronavirus.  

Step 1: Set your standards for what it means to A) feel meh, B) feel good, and C) feel amazing.  I’ll give an example of what my criteria is, but you should set your own after a couple weeks of closely monitoring your subjective energy levels and mood.

  • My criteria for “feeling meh” = less than 7 hours of sleep, malnourished or undernourished the previous day, no morning boner (a great low-tech assessment all guys can use to check on their testosterone/cortisol ratio and readiness to train), morning resting heart rate 5+ above the average
  • My criteria for “feeling good” = 8 hours of sleep, decent nutrition the previous day, morning boner, average morning resting heart rate
  • My criteria for “feeling amazing” = 9+ hours of sleep, ate a ton of good food the previous day, morning boner, morning resting heart rate above average

Step 2: Choose your workout RPE (intensity on a subjective scale of 1-10) for the day based on how you feel.  For most people, this will mean that they are training consistently at low to moderate intensities.

  • “Feeling meh” means you should be working out at a 1-5/10 intensity, depending on how meh you feel.
  • “Feeling good” means you should be working out at a 6-8/10 intensity.
  • “Feeling amazing” means you CAN be working out at a 9-10/10 intensity, but you don’t have to.  Remember, because of the spreading virus, it’s always a good idea to leave some reserves in your immune system’s ability to fuck up pathogens.

As always, if you’d like to know more about, and start taking responsibility for your own health, fitness, and wellness, please reach out to Crux Fitness Richmond for any of your personal training needs.

Patrick Koo – Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach at Crux Fitness Richmond


Nieman, D. C. (2009). Immune function responses to ultramarathon race competition. Med Sportiva, 13(4), 189-196.

Walsh, N.P. (2018) Recommendations to maintain immune health in athletes. European Journal of Sport Science, 18(6), 820-831, DOI: 10.1080/17461391.2018.1449895.

Moreira, A., Delgado, L., Moreira, P., & Haahtela, T. (2009). Does exercise increase the risk of upper respiratory tract infections? British Medical Bulletin, 90, 111-131.

Campbell, J.P., & Turner, J.E. (2018). Debunking the myth of exercise-induced immune suppression: Redefining the impact of exercise on immunological health across the lifespan. Frontiers in Immunology, 9, 648.

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