Tips for Runners on How to Strengthen Immune System

It’s easy  enough to get cough and colds in this breezy autumn season.  Being a busy season for runners, health should not be taken for granted. Aside from training your legs, you should also consider this season to train your immune system! Here’s how:

TWEAK YOUR TRAINING
Long, slow runs (90 minutes or more) use slow-twitch muscle fibers, which feed on simple sugars, the same fuel as the immune system, says Michael Ross, M.D., medical director of The Performance Lab in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. “It sets up a resource battle between the exercising muscles and the immune system, with the immune system losing out,” he says. While you probably don’t want to give up all your long runs, you can scale back on mileage by replacing a medium-distance day with a high-intensity interval training (HIIT): Instead of a slower run over 1.5 hours, for example, do a series of eight intervals where you’re running at 80 to 85 percent of your max for four or five minutes, with two minutes of recovery in between. Also, avoid increasing both intensity and volume at the same time, says Dr. Ross, a sports physician. After upping your mileage, give yourself a two-week buffer before adding a tempo workout. A good prerace taper also helps your immune system recover.

MANAGE STRESS
The body recognizes vigorous exercise as a stress factor: Hard workout or bad day at the office, it all looks the same to your internal fight-or-flight response. Add to that the mental angst that often goes along with race preparation, and it’s no wonder runners are prone to colds. All the more reason to work on your mental balance, says exercise kinesiologist Andrew Johnston. “Studies show that meditating for 20 minutes a day can lower stress,” says Johnston, the founder of Triumph Training in Atlanta. “But you can break that up over the course of a day.” The easiest way to start is to focus on one breath: Inhale slowly through your nose, pause, exhale slowly. Aim for 10 breaths, gradually adding time over several days. On your rest days, try going for an evening stroll, taking a tai chi class, or doing yoga. “These kinds of restorative activities are a good complement to an aggressive training schedule,” he says.

Read more tips at Runner’s World. 

 

Photo copyright by Flickr user William Brawley. 

 

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