Tips for Staying Healthy During the Winter Training Period
Keeping up a training regime throughout winter can be challenging. Sub-zero temperatures, snow, frozen sidewalks and limited daylight time all make shunning a training session very appealing. Add to that the battle of avoiding the cold and flu germs of co-workers and family members and winter might just be the most frustrating training period of all. But don’t throw in the towel just yet. There’s plenty you can do to help keep your body in tip-top shape despite these challenges. Here are some easy and effective ways to stay healthy during the winter training period.
Our immune systems are complex and multifaceted. Boosting one’s immunity is therefore not as simple as taking high doses of a single micronutrient. In fact, according to Beverly Merz, executive editor of Harvard Women’s Health Watch, “there is no evidence that taking extra amounts of any vitamin will improve your immune system … if you don’t have micronutrient deficiencies“. It therefore appears that an important key to staying healthy during winter is implementing and maintaining healthy living strategies that contribute to an immune system that is balanced and in harmony. These healthy living strategies include:
Following a healthy, nutrient-rich diet
As mentioned above, a deficiency in certain micronutrients can have a negative impact on one’s immune system. This, in turn, increases vulnerability to infection and disease. It is therefore imperative to follow a nutrient-rich diet that includes a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The following micronutrients, among others, play a vital role in immune function, so make sure that your diet isn’t lacking any of them: Vitamins A, D, C, E, B6 and B12, folate, zinc, selenium, iron and copper.
Including probiotic foods in your diet
Probiotics (i.e. live microorganisms that benefit the overall health of the host) can modulate immune functions. Common examples of beneficial probiotics include members of the Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria species. Both of these can be ingested through probiotic yoghurt and fermented foods and drinks, such as kombucha and kimchi. Keep in mind, though, that probiotics need to be ingested regularly and in large enough quantities in order for it to benefit immunity.
Avoiding germ-laden environments where possible
Winter is commonly regarded as cold and flu season. Have you ever wondered why? Perhaps because we tend to spend more time cooped up indoors, often in stuffy offices and rooms without sufficient ventilation? And while completely avoiding such spaces obviously isn’t practical, try to limit the time spent in germ-laden environments whenever you can.
Washing or sanitising your hands often
In instances where you can’t avoid germ-laden environments, wash or sanitise your hands properly after exposure. Keep a pocket-sized bottle of sanitiser with you and use it often. Especially when finding yourself in one of the following situations: Making use of public transport, visiting a public restroom, dropping off and picking up your kids from kindergarten and visiting doctor’s waiting rooms.
Getting enough sleep
Just like nutrition, the link between enough sleep and an optimally functioning immune system is also a complex one. But the interconnection is undeniable. In short, your body needs sleep to fight infectious diseases.
For most adults, the optimal amount of sleep is seven to eight hours per night, with teenagers and younger kids obviously needing more. And although clocking that much sleep can be a challenge in today’s hectic times, the benefits are well worth it. So make sure that you make time for enough sleep.
Exercising in moderation
While regular physical exercise can contribute to better immune function, too much of a good thing is also not ideal. Not giving your body adequate opportunity to recover and repair itself between training sessions leaves is susceptible to infection. So listen to your body and closely monitor it for any signs of overtraining. And always take immediate action if you start feeling irritable, overly tired or sluggish. Besides, taking an extra rest day is far better than missing weeks of training as a result of a flu, right?
In conclusion, it is clear that boosting one’s immune system isn’t just as simple as popping some Vitamin C. But the good news is that you can do plenty to stay healthy during the winter training period. So go on, put in the extra effort. Not only will a healthy body and regular exercise help you beat the wintertime gloom, it will also get you to spring feeling fit and ready to run!