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Staying well in winter, while training to improve

8 May 2010 No Comment

This morning was the first day I felt the touch of winter. I’m sure our friends in southern states and in the northern hemisphere are laughing. But it’s all relevant. Our Brisbane bodies are used to Brisbane temperatures. When the morning temperature drops into the low teens our body struggles to cope. A percentage of our energy goes into handling the colder air going into our lungs. Just keeping warm, without the load of exercising, uses energy which we don’t need to find in warmer weather.

Another thing which plants (trees and shrubs) know, that many athletes don’t, is that in winter when the days get shorter, it’s best to do less. The trees stop growing, the lawn hardly ever needs mowing in winter. Our ancestors traditionally stored food in the summer months for the cooler part of the year when the days were shorter and food was scarce.

So as a result of thousands of years of high activity in summer and low activity in winter, our bodies will not tolerate the same workload in winter as they will in summer.  Anyone in tune with their body will know that when spring comes, when the mornings get light earlier, it’s easier to train. Getting out of bed is easy.

We owe it to ourselves to “go with the flow”. The flow of energy that is. Adjusting our workload, our total hours of training in a week, to suit the season, is the first step in staying well through winter. I personally drop my training hours by thirty percent for winter. Choosing to work on specific weaknesses and technique improvement rather than volume.

The next step in staying well is the type of food we eat in colder weather. If we look at the diets of people who live in cold climates, they usually eat quite different styles of food from the warmer climates. A Russian peasant eats quite a different diet to a Thai peasant.

Our body will thrive on well-cooked stews, casseroles and hearty soups in colder weather. Well cooked, juicy foods are easier to digest in cool weather than salads and raw foods. In Traditional Chinese medicine a lot of attention is given to heat and cold in the body. Breathing cold air needs to be balanced by eating warming foods.

Supplements – All of our athletes take fish oil capsules morning and night. This helps us maintain a healthy intake of omega three oils which are essential in keeping our immune system in good shape. We’ve even found it improves cold tolerence when swimming in cold water.

Another great immune booster is vitamin C. If it’s taken (the way nature intended it) in the company of bio-flavonoids. (Blackmores bioC is a good one). It’s a good idea to boost the intake of vitC at the first sign of illness. Signs like, a tickle or itch in the throat, excessive tiredness, restless sleep, slight headache. VitC is water soluble and is not stored in the body, it’s a good idea to take it every two to three hours when under stress. Rather than suggest doses, your local health food store would have someone more qualified than me to advise.

Another item worth having in the medicine chest this time of year is a pack of zinc lozenges. Often the first signs of dry, itchy throat, can be neutralised by sucking a couple of zinc lozenges. The zinc is absorbed directly into the mouth and throat.

Another worthwhile addition to the supplement collection is a pro-biotic (Inner Health is a good one). The body’s defense against lots of winter illnesses is boosted by taking a probiotic once or twice a week. Every day when you’re getting close to a race or right after a tough training session. The key to a good immune system is to have the stomach in top shape.

Garlic should be included in as many meals as possible. It’s often called natures anti-biotic. We use it in just about everything we cook.

Echinacea is another item worth keeping in the cupboard, along with colloidal silver. These things don’t need to be taken every day but it makes good sense to have them right there for when you feel the first signs of illness.

Lots of athletes are not aware that cooling down gradually after a high heart rate session improves the chances of avoiding illness. You should be doing it anyway just to flush waste products out of the muscles. Cooling down aerobically will oxygenate the cells. Oxygen starved cells are more susceptable to viral attack. Cool down well and avoid getting sick.

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