In the late fall and winter, the risk of catching a viral infection increases substantially. Sports in cold weather, rooms with forced air heating, and coughing and sniffling people are just a couple of the contributing factors during this time of year. While, in the long run, regular aerobic exercise strengthens your immune system, in the short term, long or difficult workouts weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to infections. With the following behavior and nutrition tips, you’ll help to keep yourself healthy throughout the winter.
Clothing and Behavior
1. Three Layer Principle:
Carefully choose your running clothes based on the weather and how long you plan to run. Is it windy? What’s the temperature? Are you going for a long run? Dressing in layers is the key to staying comfortable in inclement weather. Each of these layers should be made of a functional fiber that wicks the moisture away from your skin and moves that moisture to the outside of the fabric. Your first, or base, layer, must be this type of material. Cotton, on the other hand, holds moisture and is a poor choice. A running vest is my favorite piece of clothing in winter. As a second layer, it really helps to keep your core warm. In windy and colder conditions, make sure to wear a high quality jacket with ‘windstopper’ functionality.
2. Keep a Warm Head
Most of your body’s heat escapes right out the top of your head. Keep it covered. If you’re not a hat fan, you should at least wear a headband or ear-muffs.
3. After training
As soon as possible you need to get out of your wet clothes. After that, it helps to relax with easy stretching in a warm environment.
4. Bath and Sauna
After a cold weather workout, heat feels good and is very relaxing. A hot tub or sauna can help with recovery and promote blood circulation. A short cold shower, or ice bath after the heat also can aid in your recovery.
1. A carbohydrate deficiency affects the body and makes it more susceptible to infections. After long workouts, you should consume about 1gram of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight. For example, you can prepare the correct amount of PowerBar Recovery Drink with milk. As an additional ‘immune booster’you can add 1tsp cinnamon and 1 tsp cocoa powder.
2. Sharp, or hot, spices and fresh herbs should be eaten every day, especially in winter. They support the immune system and stimulate your metabolism. Of particular note are:
Chili, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves and ginger , and all green herbs, such as oregano, parsley, chives, sage, thyme, rosemary, lovage, basil, coriander, and dill.
3. Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. To help strengthen your immune system, you should eat a variety of different vegetables and fruits as raw as possible (or lightly cooked). At least two pieces of fruit and three servings of vegetables should be your daily goal. Consuming beverages high in vitamin C is also very good for you. (Acerola juice is not something that is available in the U.S.)
Here is a great post workout recipe for the winter months:
Double Hot Spice Cocoa
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1-2 tsp low fat cocoa powder
- 1 pinch chili powder
- 1 tsp honey
Preparation: Heat the milk. Add the cocoa and then the spices. Sweeten with the honey.
This blog was designed by Inga Lena Heuck, a sports scientist and German Champion (2010) in the half marathon.