Stay healthy to keep running right through Winter.
This time of year puts a lot of pressure on your immune system. We still feel a little sluggish from Christmas, our diets aren’t ideal, and viruses are doing the rounds. And of course even our favourite pastime - running - can impact our immune system.
Every runner wants to stay healthy right through the cold and flu season. There’s nothing more frustrating than needing to take a week or more off training because you’ve caught a cold from someone else.
Prevention is better than cure. Here are 5 ways to help your immune system help you!
Train Hard, Recover Harder
Running is one of the most demanding forms of exercise, so our bodies need extra support when we’re trying to steer clear of illnesses. Over Winter, you might need more rest days than usual. Don’t panic. Treat the extra rest as a strategic part of your training strategy which is making you stronger for the long-term. Be diligent about replacing water, sodium, minerals and key nutrients which are depleted when we run. Find ways to drink plenty of water even when the weather is cold. Pop electrolyte powder or a tablet in some of your water. Don’t skimp on carbohydrates, even if you’re keen to shift excess Christmas pounds. And treat your body to as much sleep as possible.
Take a cue from nature. Winter foods are packed with colour, which tells us that they are high in beta carotene and key vitamins which support a healthy immune system. Try eating more local fruit, winter squashes, sweet potatoes, beans, pulses, and root vegetables to get the carbohydrates your hard-working runner’s body needs.
Let Food Be Thy Medicine
Minimise the chances of needing antibiotics and painkillers by using healthy foods to strengthen your immune system response. Certain foods have great antimicrobial properties, and the good news is they are cheap and easy to get hold of. Try adding garlic, onions, lemon and lime, root ginger, horseradish, red chilli pepper, cinnamon, and fresh herbs to your meals. Our Mums knew what they were doing in the kitchen!
Sleep Is Not A Luxury
When your immune system is under threat, it’s important to get enough good quality sleep. That means not staying up too late, ignoring the lure of Netflix, and taking your bedtime routine seriously. Aim for 8 hours, but try to get as much sleep as your body needs. Don’t be surprised if you seem to need more at this time of year. Go to bed earlier than usual (an hour’s sleep before midnight is worth two after). Start to wind down properly, by turning off phones, screens, and electronics. Don’t take your phone or tablet to bed (looking at electronic screens just before sleep is disruptive). Make your room as dark as possible. And try to empty your brain of worries, stress, and to-do lists by writing down whatever’s bothering you.
Time For Supplements
As runners, we don’t take many sports supplements. But it might be time to start. Forget protein powders and meal replacement shakes. We’re talking about key nutritional supplements which will help your body fight back against colds and bugs during Winter. Two of the best are a daily Omega 3 supplement (look for one which gives at least 1,000 mg of EPA per day) and Vitamin D (choose Vitamin D3).
Winter is a time for runners to keep strong and stay the course. Be healthy now, and you’ll be ready to hit the ground running when the key race season starts in Spring.