Winter season is also flu season, and getting sick is always a setback in training. It takes time and energy to recover from a cold or flu so the best thing we can do is to avoid the flu season or getting sick all together. However, we are not living in a bubble and this means we are exposed to infections. We also can’t avoid contact with other people in our daily life routine.
Our immune system is here to protect us from getting sick. However, after intense training, our immune system is stressed and can’t protect us as well as usual (open window). That “open window effect” has a duration of 3 to 72 hours and it’s when our bodies are most susceptible to infections and illness. This is why it is very important to get enough recovery and properly take care of your body, especially after a hard ride or workout.
Here are a few helpful tips and rules that can help you reduce the risk of getting a cold, sick, and/or the flu.
- consume a healthy diet of nutritious food- avoid processed food
- maintain good hydration
- maintain vitamin and mineral levels (especially vitamin C, D and zinc, taking some sort of multi vitamin is a good idea, too)
- get enough rest and recovery after hard training sessions
- get enough sleep at night (at least 7-8 hours)
- keep life stress to a minimum. Stress is just as hard on the immune system as hard training days.
- do not share food or drinks with anybody
- minimize contact with sick people
- keep your distance from coughing and sneezing people
- avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with your hands
- carry a hand sanitizer with you to keep your hands clean (regular and thorough hand washing will reduce your chances of infection)
- wash your hands before eating or after contact with other people, bathrooms, public places
- dry mucous membranes (in nose and throat) also makes it easier for bacteria and viruses to penetrate our immune system. Another reason to maintain good hydration (throat). You can also use a spray or cream for your nose, especially in dry and cold climate and while traveling.
- avoid over training and chronic fatigue; stick to your training plan or talk to your coach at the fist signs of fatigue or illness.
- wear appropriate clothing to keep core body temperature warm and avoid getting too cold.
Should you still get sick, here are some tips:
- Keeping up with your training routine while you are fighting a cold or flu is very bad advice. Rest up and put your whole focus on getting healthy as soon as possible. No riding at all with fever symptoms.
- Be aware when buying cough, cold, or flu medication. Off the shelf or over the counter products may contain prohibited substances. Double check with USADA before you buy or take any medication.
Once you are feeling OK again, you can start with some easy riding. You should only return to normal training if you are feeling 100 percent and energy levels are back to normal. Once you are feeling healthy, you can then step it up gradually back to normal training. Ask your coach for advice. The most important rule is to always tell your coach as soon as possible when you are not feeling healthy or well.
ALP Cycles Coaching is a Boulder-based coaching company with three female coaches at the helm: Alison Powers, Jennifer Sharp and Patricia Schwager.
Each coach brings her own coaching strengths and personal experiences. Roading racing, track, endurance mountain biking, time trialling, making the leap to living and racing in Europe – they’ve got you covered. Find out more about Alison Powers and her Alp Cycles coaching company at here.