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Monday, June 26, 2006

I got a cold the day after running a race

"Hi Gary – I had a 10km race yesterday morning and woke up today with a bit of a cold – could the 2 be linked or is it more likely to be a coincidence?

Apart from the obvious (i.e. wear warmer clothing) do you have any tips for training / racing on really cold mornings or evenings?"


Gary Moller responds:

It is probably more than a coincidence.

First of all, you might have already been coming down with a bug before the race; but were symptom free. Running hard out is a significant stress and would not have helped if your immune system was already struggling. Unaccustomed running hard in cold air may have added to the problem by the irritating your airway linings, making them more vulnerable to invasion by the virus.

The best prevention is ensuring that your immune system is given every bit of support possible. This is a year-round challenge because what you do several months earlier can impact on today. This means doing the following:
  • Ensure that you have a balanced lifestyle that does not have you stressed and being run ragged all the time. A life of rush, bother and constant worry will eventually tear you down, so make life changes today before a severe crash.
  • Get 7-8 hours sleep at exactly the same time daily. Sleep deprivation is a guaranteed way to cause immune breakdown.
  • Ensure that you eat a nutrient rich diet including fresh fruit and leafy and coloured vegetables.
  • Consider adding a quality multivitamin that includes plenty of vitamin C; a multi mineral and add some daily omega 3 oil.
  • Get vitamin D from sunlight. This does not mean tanning – it means only several minutes of midday sun 3-4 times a week with plenty of skin exposed; preferably the torso. Pale skin works best in winter; brown skin needs much more sunlight.
  • You might consider taking an herbal formulation that is designed to support the immune system. Consider taking Oliviral or Rhodiola over winter months.
  • Keep away from infected people and wash your hands frequently.
  • If you are training hard, including doing any kind of racing, you must be extra vigilant to ensure that you are eating well, spacing recovery days and getting adequate sleep and relaxation.
  • When exercising in cold wear several layers of clothing that you can easily take on and off as body heat demands.
  • Your lungs will adapt to running in cold air, if you do it often enough and so long as you are not talking about severe sub-zero conditions which require special safety measures. Have a long, hot bath afterwards.
What these measures will do in combination is help reduce the number and severity of any colds or flu’s that you might pick up over the year and you should get over them much quicker. As an aside, I don't think people need to have a flu vaccine, if they nurture their immune system in these ways.

If you do catch a cold while undertaking intense athletic training or competition, this is your body telling you that it needs a break. Take 3-5 days off everything other than short and easy stuff, eat really well, top up the vitamins and minerals and then gradually ease back into normal training.

If the infection is below the neck, then cut out the training altogether until recovered.

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