Longer distances and immunity

The last few weeks I have felt like my training has not gone to plan. It was not enough. I didn’t go far enough, didn’t run enough days and my weekly mileage sat around 50-55km/week. There’s nothing wrong with running 50-55km/week, but my intention was to increase this figure, not stay the same.

So on Saturday I set my alarm for 6am, and after a few hits of the snooze button, managed to kick myself out the door by 6:30am. It was 1 degree, frosty and misty. I am in love with my arm warmers πŸ™‚

The run felt so easy and it was my longest yet at 27.3k. Strangely enough, I didn’t feel battered about like I would normally after a longest long run. After a quick stretch I felt like I hadn’t exerted myself more than if I had just walked around the block. Recovery was instant. I really only stretched because I thought it would be good for me, not because of any tight muscles. This long run pushed my weekly total to 66.3k even though I had 2 rest days!

Did I mention I felt good during that run? No recovery issues? Well, Sunday I woke up with a sore throat. Today a sniffly nose. This is the 3rd cold I’ve had this year. My colds last 2 weeks usually. I did a quick calculation today and worked out I have been sick for nearly a 3rd of 2008! That’s shocking!

I know long distance running and endurance sports place stress on your immune system. I have read reports of people getting a cold after a marathon or ultra. I only did 27k though! That is not much in the scheme of things. Really, my system must be poor. I could not for the life of me work out what I could be lacking. Do I need to start eating on the run? Is there a magic food I should be eating immediately after a long run? Is there a pill I need to take?

After a query on a running forum and some Googling, I realised I don’t eat any fruit. That’s right, I couldn’t work it out for myself, I needed the internet to tell me. Probiotics apparently assist in boosting the immune system too. So today I went to the posh supermarket that sells edible fruit (as opposed to the usual supermarket that sells cardboard tasting things or the organic shop which would cost more although taste better) and I stocked up on mandarins and kiwi fruit. I ate a kiwi fruit after my lunch. It felt good. It tasted good. I could feel the micro nutrients doing me good. So I am now going to trial eating fruit straight after a long run. I’d also like to give the probiotics a go. I honestly don’t think I could be bothered buying yoghurt and eating it every day though. I’d get sick of it, then it would sit in the fridge and go off. But probiotics come in pill form so at some stage I might give those a go too.

Something else that also occurred to me today is I do place a fair amount of mental pressure on myself to run certain weekly distances and to get the long run the right distance. I think this pressure also puts me at risk of colds so I need to chill a bit. Go with the flow more. I don’t know how to do that though and improve the way I want at the same time. I don’t want to get sick every 6 weeks so something has to change in that regard. Fruit will help, but a relaxed state of mind might help more. The fruit thing I can control. This business of chilling might take some time. But maybe because my body just isn’t used to these distances I am more susceptible to colds. Maybe when my body is used to these distances then I wont get sick all the time. Maybe I need a combination of everything – more nutrients in my diet, peace of mind and a fitter body. Maybe then it will all come together and I will feel healthier and suffer colds less. Time will tell.

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