Now's the time of the year when everyone comes down with some sort of illness. It's the perfect storm for runners: post-race season, changing weather, and everyone sniffling around you. Distance runners often report "marathon sniffles," and intense runs can weaken your immune system.
Don't let that make you sick or derail your training. Here are a few precautions you should take:
Long, slow runs burn up simple sugars, which is what fuels your immune system too. Don't let it become a resource battle between your exercise and your illness-fighting capabilities by scaling back on mileage in favor of intensity training (shorter distances with more speed and interval training). But avoid increasing intensity and distance at the same time.
If you're feeling stressed about a race (or anything else), try to relax with yoga or meditation, because stress levels increase cortisol production which suppresses immune system capabilities. Make sure to get your full eight hours of shut-eye every night, and eat a well-balanced diet. Experts also recommend drinking a carbohydrate and protein drink in the first hour after a run as well, to help protect from illness and aid recovery.
For more information and best practices on staying healthy post-race, check out a report on RunnersWorld.com. And remember that immediately after a race, you should stick to hugs and stay away from kissing and high fives. Keep the germs away!