So, this post turns out to be something of a sequel to last week’s in which I described trying kickboxing for the first time, twisting my knee and spraining my ankle in the process. Who knew you couldn’t just take off your boxing shoes and prance around barefoot like a lifeguard in the hot sand? I certainly did not and paid dearly for it, especially on the heavy bag.
The last two weeks have been instructive. First, I learned that if you keep off the knee and apply ice, it heals itself, which is just what happened. Yesterday was the first time I did any walking and went 2.5 miles without a problem. Not wanting to tempt fate, however, I returned home and put the leg up. Ibuprofen and a martini helped nicely. Granted, that may not be the standard treatment, but I am now officially retired, so I am flexing my rediscovered freedom come what may. Next time, I may dissolve the ibuprofen in the martini.
The second thing I learned was the importance of sweat. I mean that as a verb, not a noun. That’s exactly what I did to counter a flu that I thought was Covid but ended up being some other nasty bug. I went to the boxing gym and sweat out the fever, aches, and chills in about an hour. So, I’m going to come out and make the claim: throwing hooks at a heavy bag until your arms drop off neutralizes pathogens. The body heats up and sweat flushes out the detritus.
This isn’t a new discovery. The ancient Romans had baths, American Indians continue to use sweat lodges, and I have read research that shows heat stops unregulated cell growth (i.e., cancer). That’s if you consider cancer to be a metabolic aberration rather than a genetic one. Also, not everyone holds to the sweat model of curing illness. It’s not supposed to work technically, but there may be something to the replenishment of fluids with water while working out. The combination of heat, sweat, and hydration may be the trifecta in curing illness.
I would add a fourth factor to the trifecta: fasting. Fasting reduces inflammation and increases metabolism, activating the body’s natural defenses to prevent infection. I fast intermittently, not eating from roughly 8:00 pm to noon the next day, and I feel more agile and fit, which is to say better able to ward off illness. It also helps not to have food in your stomach or system when working out.
But does how I feel have anything to do with the reality of fighting an infection or illness? I’m going to say yes and duck for cover in anticipation of people criticizing me for being irrational, unscientific, or a believer in magic. I don’t refute established facts regarding how nature works. Nor am I a magical thinker. But I do believe our attitudes and perspectives affect our bodies and the degree to which they become vulnerable to disease. How could they not? Are we not one system composed of “inspirited flesh”?
It could be that the things we do to sweat matter. Cardio boxing, combinations, and sparring engage the body and focus the mind in the moment. Getting hit in the face will do that. The sweat produced is the result of a coordinated, integrated effort of body, mind, and spirit. I like to think that it cleans all three and lifts us to a level beyond the purely physical. It could also be that I just like to sweat and feel better after a workout, because the pain of the workout takes my mind off the wretchedness of the flu.
But I am a practical man, meaning if it works, it works, and there’s an end to it. With flu season coming on, it might be worth getting worked up. Try it. Just keep your shoes on.
Image credits: feature by i yunmai; steam by HUUM; “SWEAT” by Claudio Schwarz. Want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.”