Endurance training can be rewarding but challenging, requiring careful attention to find the right balance between exertion and rest. As athletes, it is essential to prioritise our health and well-being. We must make informed decisions when facing illnesses like the common cold. A popular saying advises that if our symptoms are above the neck, it’s usually safe to continue training; however, rest and recovery should be prioritised if the symptoms extend below.
To Train or Not
The onset of cold symptoms often lands us in a quandary— to train or to rest? The aforementioned principle simplifies this dilemma, hopefully! Symptoms manifesting above the neck, such as a runny nose, slight sore throat, or mild headache, typically signal a green light to continue training, albeit at a lighter intensity.
However, when symptoms descend below the neck, such as chest congestion, body aches, or fever, it’s a clear indication to halt training and allow the body its rightful rest.
How to Manage When Training
When the symptoms are above the neck, and you decide to power through, consider the following:
- Modify Intensity: Adjust the intensity of your exercise to align with your current physical condition. Choose a less demanding workout that allows you to stay active without putting excessive strain on your body.
- Stay Hydrated: Adequate hydration is vital to help expedite the recovery process. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and replenish electrolytes if necessary.
- Listen to Your Body: If you notice an exacerbation in symptoms or a general decline in energy, it’s a cue to rest.
How to Manage When Not Training
If the symptoms necessitate a break from training, adhere to the following guidelines:
- Rest: Your body is in a battle, and rest is its ally. Ensure you’re getting ample sleep and relaxation.
- Nutrition: Fuel your body with nutrient-dense foods rich in vitamins and minerals to support the immune system.
- Stay Positive: Keep a positive mindset, knowing that a brief hiatus is a wise investment for long-term endurance training success.
How to Limit Chances of Catching a Cold – Practical Tips
To fortify oneself against the common cold, especially during the cold season, integrating the following practices into your daily routine can be beneficial:
- Regular Exercise: Regular, moderate-intensity exercise can bolster the immune system. Several recent studies show a link between regular exercise and reduced incidence of upper respiratory tract infections.(Perry, C. et al., 2013) It is also worth bearing in mind that there is a tipping point where excessive exercise can actually damage the immune system, so finding the right balance is key.
- Hand Hygiene: Regular hand washing can significantly reduce the risk of respiratory infections, as per the guidance from the NHS and other health organisations.
- Vitamin D Supplementation: Adequate levels of Vitamin D are associated with a reduced risk of respiratory infections. When sunlight exposure is limited during the winter months, vitamin D supplementation could be wise. In the UK, it is recommended that adults consider taking a daily supplement of 10 micrograms (400 IU) of vitamin D from multiple sources, including supplementation.(Vitamin D and Health, 2016)
- Balanced Diet: A balanced diet rich in nutrients supports a robust immune system. Ensure a mix of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and a colourful array of fruits and vegetables.
- Stress Management: Chronic stress can wreak havoc on the immune system. Engage in stress-reducing activities like meditation, yoga, or simply spending time in nature.
- Adequate Sleep: Sleep is when the body heals and regenerates. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep to support optimal immune function.
In conclusion, navigating through the common cold during endurance training requires a blend of attuned self-awareness and evidence-based practices to continue training smartly or embrace rest wholeheartedly. Equipped with the proper knowledge and a proactive approach towards health, endurance athletes can effectively manage and mitigate the impact of common colds on their training journey.
- Perry, C. et al. (2013) Endurance Exercise Diverts the Balance between Th17 Cells and Regulatory T Cells. Available at: https://scite.ai/reports/10.1371/journal.pone.0074722.
- Vitamin D and Health (2016). Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/scientific-advisory-committee-on-nutrition.