Research has shown that after running a marathon there is a shift in immune system function for approximately 72 hours where you’re more susceptible to things like upper respiratory infections.
But even a heavy training cycle can sometimes lead to immune system suppression so it’s important to be supporting your body along the way.
Staying Healthy During Marathon Training
- Hand washing– most germs are spread through contact with surfaces which then get transferred into our mucus membranes (eyes, nose, mouth). In addition, limiting contact with other runner’s post race (hugs, high fives, kisses) may be helpful.
- Keeping your stress level as low as possible. Chronic stress will raise the body’s cortisol levels which can increase inflammation and often lead to sickness. Take steps to manage stress by training smart, working on healthy relationships, getting enough sleep, making time for relaxation, and meditation.
- Reduce your sugar intake. Eating sugary foods or drinks suppresses your immune system for at least 2 hours after consumption.
- Increase your healthy food intake. Diet: Eat healthy, whole foods that contain a balanced array of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants like cherries, berries, grapes, nuts, dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, carrots, green tea, and dark chocolate. Drink plenty of water. Many runners find probiotics helpful (or fermented foods).
- Consider herbs or supplements. Other things that may be helpful include: garlic, turmeric, ginger and Echinacea. I like using the Young Living essential oil called Thieves®. This proprietary blend has been university tested for its cleansing and antimicrobial abilities and contains clove, lemon, cinnamon, euchalyptis and rosemary.
- Get more sleep. Most of us don’t get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Even if you’re managing on less sleep this still has a detrimental long-term effect on our health and training.
- Don’t overtrain. One reason runners get sick is often too many high intensity workout days without enough built in easy and recovery days. It’s unrealistic to do intense workouts 6 days per week and still expect your body to perform its best.