By Melanie McQuaid
March 19, 2007 — The last few weeks have been an exercise in restraint for me. Depending on how I feel when I wake up in the morning it is either on – meaning it’s go time for the training plan or it’s off – which means a casual morning with the paper is in order. February and March always seem to be the time of year when an overly ambitious training plan can result in two weeks of antibiotics to kill some nasty bug. Given the number of people I have been in contact with over the past month with pneumonia, flu or some nasty cold, I know that I am right on the edge of getting sick nearly all of the time.
There are a few things you can do that will help you ride on the right side of that edge. Usually, we know what the last workout that put you over was or whose hand we shook that we shouldn’t have. The following recovery and health maintenance tips might help avoid your next flu or at least cut the recovery time you may need to get over it.
Obvious! I think in the winter and during flu time it is important to get enough sleep. Given that the winter is often viewed as the time of year to build volume, many of us are pushing our limits. I know that each winter I am setting new benchmarks for total volume completed.
Part one of resting enough is to make sure you get enough sleep to recover from efforts. If you are not able to take a nap, make sure you are tucked in bed at a reasonable hour with a book and not parked in front of the television at midnight watching another rerun of Law and Order. You will be happy you made that decision in the morning.
Part two of rest is making sure you take easy weeks to recover. If you don’t balance training weeks with rest weeks you will get run down and will probably catch a nasty bug. Be preemptive – rest before you get sick, not when you get sick.
WASH YOUR HANDS
How many times per day do you shake someone’s hand? That person has probably touched ten other people, and inevitably, one of those people has a child at home with the flu. Now when you pick up a sandwich soon you will enjoy the flu as well. The other instance might be a doorknob at home that someone touched on their way in from school or work. Germs are everywhere so compulsive hand washing is a great idea if you don’t want to be ill. When I am gearing up for a big race I will avoid public places and quarantine myself at home to avoid as many potential germ spreaders as possible. This time of year I am much mellower and just wash my hands a lot.
Often a crappy diet is the main reason why people get sick. I always suggest that everyone add as much color as possible to your diet. Instead of white pasta, choose brown. Choose purple, orange, red and bright green vegetables. Colorful means nutrient packed. Your diet is the strongest impact on your overall health, so take a good look at it. Although a glass of wine with dinner is good for your heart, if you have a sore throat and you add some alcohol you may end up ill. Alcohol will certainly depress your immune function.
I like to take more antioxidants in the winter or when I think I am at risk for catching something, like when I am flying or during and after a hard training block. I take USANA vitamins, which are guaranteed to not be contaminated. By adding a bit more vitamin A, C and E, along with some Zinc and Selenium for immune system boosting, often I can avoid illness. There are also homeopathic products with Echinacea and reishi mushroom that can help if you already have something and want to get rid of it. Taking these products does not give you a free ticket to exercise; you still have to cut the training if you are sick.
Most of us know when we are on the edge of illness, just as we can sense an injury before it actually happens. The key is to quit while you are still ahead. It is always true that a couple of days off while you are healthy will be better than a week off being sick. Although all of us make that mistake over and over, it is still good to think of it when you have the option to quit while you are still healthy.
Good luck with happy, healthy training!