Winter is in full swing and with that comes increased indoor training and often times more time just generally spent indoors. This in turn increases our chances of catching the common cold or upper respiratory tract infection (URTI). There is a common belief that with increased exercise and specifically with increase exercise intensity we have a higher risk of catching this virus. Although it cannot be completely avoided we can minimize our risk of contracting a URTI.
A few logical ways are:
1. Avoid exposure to those who are sick.
2. Wash hands frequently with soap and water. A good hand washing should be the length of time it takes you to sing Happy Birthday. If soap and water are not available than use hand sanitizer.
3. Avoid sharing food utensils and water bottles with others.
4. Avoid crowded public places.
With that being said, maintaining a strong immune system is our best defense against contracting a URTI. Just another reason to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The best way to maintain a healthy immune system is to get an adequate amount of sleep daily. During sleep our immune system undergoes the process of repairing itself. If you have unhealthy sleep habits or lack a quality 7-8 hours daily then this is the first place to look if you are getting frequent URTIs.
A proper nutrition plan that focuses on high quality whole foods also helps maintain a strong immune system. A high quality whole foods diet is rich in anti-inflammatories. This prioritizes vegetables and fruits at each meal and with snacks. Other foods that include omega 3 and 6 such as flax, chia, and hemp seeds have proven to be beneficial towards the formation of cell membranes, which is vital in keeping toxic substances out of cells.
It is also important to balance your training stress with life stresses. To push through a high training load without realizing the effect that shorter days and increased time spent indoors may leave you feeling fatigued regardless of training will only create more stress and weaken your immune system. Remember stress is stress, and your body often times cannot differentiate stress from a high intensity workout as opposed to stress from trying to pack too many activities into a shortened day.
Remain consistent as best you can with what life has to offer at the present time. By simply adjusting your expectations and taking preventative measures you will decrease your risk of getting sick and hopefully be able to maintain consistency.
Remember though, if you do come down with a URTI that the world is not collapsing around you. Simply take the time needed to rest and recover properly so you can minimize any down time and get back as fresh as can be. A well thought out consistent plan always takes into account some unexpected downtime.
If you do find yourself with a URTI below is an immune boosting tea I like to drink when feeling under the weather.
1/4 tsp ginger or thumbnail sized chopped fresh ginger
1/4 tsp turmeric or thumbnail sized chopped fresh turmeric
1 clove garlic chopped
1 tbsp cinnamon
cayenne pepper to taste
2-3 droppers full of Herb Pharm brand echinacea
1 tbsp manuka or neem honey
Pour hot water over combined ingredients, let sit a few minutes and sip as a tea.