Written by ALP Cycles Coach Patricia Schwager
It’s that time of the year again where people tend to get sick more often with viruses, colds or the flu. Athletes are a primary target because after intense training, our immune systems are compromised and can’t protect us, causing an "open window effect". That “open window effect” has a duration of about 3 to 72 hours. This is why it is very important to get enough and proper recovery especially after a hard ride, workout or race!
In case you are getting sick with the cold/ flu, here are a few tips to shut it down:
Rest up and put your whole focus on getting healthy as soon as possible. It is very hard for an athlete to stay at home and to miss out on training or exercise, however it is the very best you can do for your body in order to get better as soon as possible. If you keep training while you are sick, you take out more energy from your body...energy that your body would need to fight off the cold/ flu. Riding or exercising while having fever symptoms can actually cause damage to your heart. An athlete can take off up to 10 days from training before losing fitness in most cases. It's easier to build up at a healthy state than to recover after days of digging into a sick hole.
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 (http://www.globaldro.org/Home) before you buy or take any medication.
Once you are feeling "normal" again, you can start with some easy riding (low intensity!!). You should only return to normal training if you are also feeling 100% again. When you are feeling healthy again, increase the volume/intensity gradually 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.
Below are a few helpful tips& tricks on how you can prevent to get sick or at least reduce the risk of getting a cold or flu:
-Healthy diet of nutritious, well balanced food. Don't skimp on the carbohydrates, healthy fats and protein!
-Good hydration (Not only water! Always have something in your bottle: electrolytes, juice mixed with water, etc), reduce coffee and alcohol intake as they both dehydrate your body
-Maintain vitamin and mineral levels, (especially during the winter time) take vitamin C, D and zinc. Taking some sort of multi vitamin is a good idea, too. Personally I am a big fan of the Swiss food suplement "Bio Strath" (herbal yeast, it contains 60 entirely natural vital substances). Bio Strath is a perfect supplement to boost the immune system during stage races, hard training blocks plus also in the winter time.
-get enough rest after hard training sessions
-get enough sleep at night (at least 7-8 hours)
-keep life stress to a minimum, do not overload your schedule
-do not share food or drinks with anyone
-minimize contact with sick people
-keep 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- remember to wash at least 20 seconds!)
-wash your hands before eating or after contact with other people, bathrooms, public places
-dry mucous membranes (in nose and throat) also makes is easier for bacteria and viruses to penetrate our immune system. Practice good hydration (especially keeping throat hydrated) and use a spray or cream for your nose. This is most important in dry and cold climates and while traveling (airplane)
-avoid over training and chronic fatigue, stick to your training plan
-wear appropriate clothing to match weather conditions
-change into dry& warm clothing post ride or training, do not sit around in sweaty clothing