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How to avoid the common cold this winter

It’s that time of the year again. Winter is here, and it’s here to stay for a while. 

Unless you’re lucky enough to have escaped to a destination training camp, your training has likely moved indoors. With the lowering temperatures and increased time indoors, there is a proportional increase in the occurrence of the common cold. While it may be just a blip in your health, having to constantly get over the cold (or worst) can dampen your mood and training. 

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To stay on top of your health this winter, make sure you continue to pick out foods that are rich in antioxidants. Fruits and vegetables are the most abundant source of antioxidants, however, nuts, whole grains, poultry and fish are other options to keep your antioxidant levels topped up.

Essentially, antioxidants are chemicals that fight stresses that occur in your body (oxidative stress). This can come from the physiological strain of training, lack of sleep and environmental toxins. When oxidative stress occurs in the body, antioxidants scavenge for molecules that are causing havoc (called free radicals) on the immune system and neutralize them.

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Additionally, because there is a significant reduction in sunlight over the winter months, those that live in the Northern Hemisphere are at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency. Nicknamed the sunlight vitamin, vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and plays a role in immunity, inflammation and illness prevention. 

While it may not be an antioxidant (debated), vitamin D does play an important role in an athlete’s health, training and performance. That’s why it is advised for those that reside in the Northern Hemisphere to take a vitamin D supplement over the winter. It is especially beneficial for athletes because their bodies are already taxed with greater physiological stresses (i.e. training).

Related: Vitamin D: It’s that time of the year

Furthermore, adding a multi-vitamin to your diet may be necessary if there is the concern of you not meeting your daily needs. This can be determined with consultation from a health professional. Three nutrients for triathletes to pay attention to are iron, vitamin D and vitamin B12

If you do find yourself getting sick, TAKE TIME OFF FROM TRAINING. Battling through the common cold may seem like a victory at the time but pushing your body through a tough session will only increase inflammation and deplete your body’s ability to fight illness. It’s best to dial back your training, and increase rest. If need be, make sure you consult a health professional.