Forgot username?     |     Forgot password?

Show Blog Categories
Hide Blog Categories
December 31, 2013

Stay a Step Ahead of Colds and the Flu This Winter

Written by Dena Evans

colds-fluThe good news is that regular exercise can be a strong ally against the common cold, as moderate exercise can stimulate the immune system.  However, this is tempered by the body’s reaction to the stress placed on that same immune system when the runs get long.  According to researcher David Nieman at Appalachian State University (a marathoning and ultra marathoning veteran), there is a 3-72 hour window after our long, hard efforts (90 minutes +) where the body suffers a temporary impairment of the immune system, making marathoners and half marathoners sitting ducks for the post-long run or post-race cold.   What’s a runner with goals to do?  While it is impossible to control for everything, with a few precautions, hopefully the odds will skew a bit more favorably.

 

Stay hydrated

Although we normally associate the need for hydration with the other three seasons, dry winter weather, altitude if visiting a mountainous region, or the unfamiliar humidity of a warm vacation spot can catch us off guard.  Even if just staying inside, the dry air in our well-heated homes can make a difference.  Particularly if traveling by air or consuming more alcohol than usual (ahem), staying hydrated can be a key component to keeping your body working well and running well.  An oft-quoted rule of thumb is to consume 64 ounces of water per day, or 8 regular sized glasses.  Some even suggest dividing your weight in pounds by two and using that number for how many ounces you need, or even taking 2/3 of your weight in pounds if you exercise.  If these numbers seem daunting, the point is – you probably could use some improvement in these areas, even if only incrementally!

 

Get a flu shot

True, you could get some variant of the flu that the shot didn’t cover or get sick in other ways, but a flu shot is usually free or very low cost through most insurance or direct providers and it takes about 10 seconds.  As recreational adult runners, we can’t always treat ourselves like professional athletes.  In this case, however, we can.  If you have a winter or spring goal race planned, and your brain fast forwards to a hypothetical, very inopportune flu the week of the race, then this becomes a slam dunk.  Don’t let random flu sabotage your training or racing!

 

Wash your hands like a doctor

No, this has nothing to do with running, except that recreational runners with big plans don’t like them going awry.  Wash them well, for 30 seconds with warm water and soap, and avoid touching your face to spread what germs make it through the gauntlet!  Carry some hand santitizer, and use it when washing hands isn't possible.

 

Sleep

Although sleep is always important for performance, it takes on an even greater role during cold and flu season as several studies have shown the body’s immune system can be significantly impaired with repeated sleep deprivation.  Six hours instead of eight may not seem like a big deal, but during the winter and while training hard, too many of those nights can end up having the reverse effect from what efficiency you hoped to accomplish during those extra hours of wakefulness – laying you out for a couple days or preventing training during a crucial period.  Be a jealous guardian of your sleep time, and you’ll likely be more efficient and effective during your waking hours anyway!

 

 

Eat well

It is always a good idea to eat nutritiously, but during cold and flu season, good choices of immune system boosting foods with important nutrients can be particularly important.  For example, try a bean chili – lots of veggies and beans with key vitamins and minerals, and some spiciness to clear the nasal passages for good measure makes this dish more than just a warm comfort food, according to researchers at Wake Forest.   If you unfortunately do fall prey to the flu, try these foods as a part of your "return to health" arsenal.

 

No immune system is truly immune. This winter, let your running habit be the catalyst for healthy habits that will hopefully give you (and your family) a better chance of staying active and on your feet throughout the cold and flu season.

 

Movecoach is a brand owned by Focus-N-Fly, Inc Copyright 2019