During the half marathon a little over a week ago I felt great, both during and after. During the week before the half I started taking my vitamins again and drinking nutriblasts (fruit and veggies smoothies made with my nutribullet). I was feeling pretty healthy and then boom, I got sick. Sore throat, congestion, migraines. It seems that after every half marathon, I am sick a week later, coincidence, I think not.
It would seem that my immune system is weakened after I run a half marathon. As a nurse I am also exposed to germs in a daily basis so a weakened immune system plus germs equals illness. According to Outsideonline.com (#1), “researchers believe there’s an “open window” of impaired immunity that may last between three and 72 hours after a big event. During that time, your body’s resistance to pathogens is lowered, leaving you at higher risk for infection”. This makes complete sense and definitely correlates with the fact that I am almost always fighting off some type of illness within one week after a half marathon.
What can you do to prevent post race illness?
- Get plenty of sleep. Immune function is directly correlated to the amount of sleep a person gets each night. Optimal amount of sleep for a healthy adult is between 7-8 hours a night and now that I work nights I have been averaging 4-5 hours a night. Check out this article (#3) on Psychologytoday.com to learn more about the effects that sleep has on your immune system.
- Take your vitamins. I take a multi, vitamin C, vitamin D, glucosamine and chondroitin, calcium and magnesium on a regular basis. Studies show that taking 1000 mg Quercetin supplement one week prior and two weeks after has been sown to reduce the incidence of upper respiratory infections in endurance athletes (source #2).
- Wash your hands frequently. Washing your hands, either with soap and water or hand sanitizer, is the number one way to prevent illness and this can be especially important when your immune system is compromised in any way.
- Eat healthy. After a race the first thing I want to do is devour any food in from of me and have a beer, unfortunately this is the wrong approach when considering my immune system. Maintaining a healthy diet is important for both your immune system and your weight, because you can quickly eat or drink more than you have burned during the race. Treat yourself to one meal or food item and then go right back to a healthy, well rounded diet.
As I prepare to start my next training cycle for the Virginia Beach Half Marathon in August and the NYC Marathon in November, I plan to follow my own advice and work on preventing post race illness.
Have you experienced post race illness? What are your tips for preventing it?