Top tips to avoid those winter flu bugs

Winter has definitely hit the UK this week and with the dip in temperatures comes the likelihood of winter sniffles and flu bugs. In the article below, Patricia Schwager of Alp Cycles Coaching offers some sound advice on minimising the risk of picking up bugs over the coming weeks, to ensure your winter training stays focused and on schedule.

Winter season is also flu season and getting sick is always a setback in training. It takes time and energy to recover from a cold or flu so the best thing we can do is to avoid the flu season or getting sick all together. However, we are not living in a bubble and this means we are exposed to infections. We also can’t avoid contact with other people in our daily life routine.

Our immune system is here to protect us from getting sick. However, after intense training, our immune system is stressed and can’t protect us as well as usual (open window). That ‘open window effect’ has a duration of 3 to 72 hours and it’s when our bodies are most susceptible to infections and illness. This is why it is very important to get enough recovery and properly take care of your body, especially after a hard ride or workout.

Here are a few helpful tips and rules that can help you reduce the risk of getting a cold, sick, and/or the flu.

  • Consume a healthy diet of nutritious food and avoid processed food.
  • Maintain good hydration.
  • Maintain vitamin and mineral levels (especially vitamin C, D and zinc, taking some sort of multi vitamin is a good idea, too).
  • Get enough rest and recovery after hard training sessions.
  • Get enough sleep at night (at least 7-8 hours).
  • Keep life stress to a minimum. Stress is just as hard on the immune system as hard training days.
  • Do not share food or drinks with anybody.
  • Minimize contact with sick people.
  • Keep your distance from coughing and sneezing people.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with your hands
  • Carry a hand sanitiser with you to keep your hands clean (regular and thorough hand washing will reduce your chances of infection).
  • Wash your hands before eating or after contact with other people, bathrooms, public places.
  • Dry mucous membranes (in nose and throat) also makes it easier for bacteria and viruses to penetrate our immune system. Another reason to maintain good hydration (throat). You can also use a spray or cream for your nose, especially in dry and cold climate and while traveling.
  • Avoid over training and chronic fatigue; stick to your training plan or if you have a coach, ensure you talk to him/her at the first signs of fatigue or illness.
  • Wear appropriate clothing to keep core body temperature warm and avoid getting too cold.

Keep wrapped up warm to ensure you don't get dropped by your winter training partners.

Should you still get sick, here are some tips:

Keeping up with your training routine while you are fighting a cold or flu is very bad advice. Rest up and put your whole focus on getting healthy as soon as possible. Never ride if you have symptoms of fever.

Be aware when buying cough, cold, or flu medication. Off the shelf or over the counter products may contain prohibited substances, so always double check or contact your governing body.

Once you are feeling OK again, you can start with some easy riding. You should only return to normal training if you are feeling 100 percent and energy levels are back to normal. Once you are feeling healthy, you can then step it up gradually back to normal training. Once again, if you do have a coach or are training to a structured plan, ask your coach for advice  and remember rule number one: always tell your coach as soon as possible when you are not feeling healthy or well.

This blog post was written by Patricia Schwager and originally published by ALP Cycles Coaching, which is a Boulder-based coaching company run by three female cycling coaches: Alison Powers, Jennifer Sharp and Patricia.

You can find out far more about Alison, Jennifer and Patricia by visiting the Alp Cycling Coaching website, where you will find information about the services they offer, along with many other informative blog posts about cycling related issues. 

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Comment by Terry Hayward on December 9, 2015 at 17:17
7-8 hours sleep per night and avoid stress! Hmm .... Now that would be nice but not likely currently. I'll just have to double up on the vitamins and steer clear of the sickies. I generally avoid unhealthy looking people if at all possible. :)
Comment by Dave Nash on December 9, 2015 at 9:21

Avoid small children would be another tip I would add to that list.

Good advice and reminds me of Bradley Wiggins (as he was then) during the 2012 Tour de France. Throughout the duration of the race he refused to shake  hands with anyone for fear of catching bugs. He made it to Paris in good health! 

Comment by Middle Ringer on December 8, 2015 at 20:35

Avoid shopping centres like the plague, they are festering Petri dishes ripe and full of incubating diseases at this time of year (or any time really). Luckily I'm not much of a people person and am usually out on my bike, having little else to do with the outside world!

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