• Preventing the ‘Marathon Sniffles’

    November 9, 2011

    Another interesting presentation that I heard at the Dole Healthy Lifestyles Blogger Summit last week was given by Dr. David Nieman, Director of Human Performance Labs at Appalachian State University, about Immunonutrition Support for Athletes.

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    Immunonutrition? Say what?!?

    Dr. Nieman’s presentation was very research-heavy and somewhat over my head, but his findings with regard to athletes, immunity, and recovery were quite fascinating. He explained that while 45 minutes of moderate daily exercise stimulates the immune system, the rigors of endurance training/running longer distances temporarily weakens it. During the strain of a hard run, for instance, the body churns out the stress hormone cortisol, which suppresses immune function in large amounts. Basically, the stress of training for an endurance event compromises your immune system and increases your odds of becoming ill.

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    A few days before Dr. Nieman’s presentation, I read an article in Runner’s World about how many long-distance runners develop colds and other upper-respiratory infections (aka the “marathon sniffles”) in the two weeks following a race. The article went on the explain that marathons, in particular, can leave a runner vulnerable. Fortunately, there are ways to boost your resilience, which includes tweaking your training, managing stress, sleep, and eating well.

    What I found most interesting (and helpful) was the article’s advice for preventing illness. After a race, runners are more vulnerable to getting sick for up to 72 hours due to elevated cortisol levels. Here are RW’s suggestions for preventing sickness:

    • Bring alcohol-based sanitizer to the race and use it before and after you run; avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes.
    • Celebratory hugs are okay; high-fives, handshakes, and kisses are not.
    • Continue to eat well, stay hydrated, and get plenty of sleep.
    • Get a massage, which has been shown to increase the number of infection-fighting white blood cells in circulation.
    • Avoid germ centers like the mall and kids’ parties.
    • If you start to feel the sniffles, try a saline nasal rinse or drape a towel over your head and lean over a bowl of steaming water for 10 minutes.

    Having just completed a marathon, I’m keeping all of these things in mind. I washed my hands like a crazy person during all of my travels. I have a post-marathon massage scheduled for this afternoon. And since I got home on Monday evening, I’ve been chugging water, getting plenty of sleep, and trying to eat as many nutrients as possible. With that said, let’s get onto the eats!

    Snack

    Mid-morning, my stomach started to growl, so I made some baked sweet potato wedges with sea salt sprinkled on top. I cut the sweet potato into large wedges, tossed them in olive oil, and then baked them in the oven on 400*F for 30-35 minutes.

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    Lunch

    A couple of hours later, it was time for lunch. I made a big salad with leftovers from last night’s dinner, tomatoes, carrots, celery, and balsamic vinegar. I read the December issue of Runner’s World while I chomped away. (I’m already itching to get back to running!)

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    The second part of my lunch was an “Immunity Smoothie” that I made from a recipe that I ripped out of a magazine a few weeks ago.

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    In the mix:

    • 1.5 cups frozen mixed berries
    • 1 cup Kefir yogurt drink
    • 1 carrot
    • Dash of cinnamon
    • 1/3 cup water

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    It’s just about time for Murphy’s afternoon walk, so I poured my smoothie into a travel mug to take with me. Even though I ran 26.2 miles the other day, I’m ready to get back to exercise. I have a feeling that walking with my favorite pug is exactly what my body needs. It’s also 70 degrees in Boston today (it’s November 9th, right?), so I need to enjoy the beautiful weather while I can!

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    { 58 comments… read them below or add one }

    Kara November 9, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    That smoothie looks delish! Did you shred the carrot before putting it in the blender?

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    Tina November 9, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    I just broke it up into 6 or 7 pieces and threw it into the blender.

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    Amanda November 9, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    Today is a perfect day for a walk. I’m loving the mild, sunny weather in Boston right now! Gotta enjoy it while we can. :)

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    Heather November 9, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    I went to App State and had a friend who actually worked with him for one of her classes. I agree it’s a little over my head too, but very interesting.

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    Tina November 9, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    Cool!

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    Katie @ Peace Love and Oats November 9, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    I’ve heard that people tend to get sick right after a marathon, I hope you manage to fight off any bugs!

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    joelle (on a pink typewriter) November 9, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Those sweet potato wedges look amazing!

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    Claire @ Live and Love to Eat November 9, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    I’ve heard about a similar phenomenon about any high stress event – afterward, your “good stress” hormones are depleted as well and you’re more likely to get sick. Happened to me after my wedding!

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    Lauren @ What Lauren Likes November 9, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    That is an amazing mid-morning snack! I need to do that :)

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    Lorraine @ Mama Road November 9, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    70 degrees?! luckyyyyy! It’s 45 or 50 in Oklahoma and I do believe it has the potential for blizzard-like conditions! not really. but I’m freakin’ cold and totally having temp-envy. Isn’t kefir one of those weird, but obviously healthy foods? I need to educate myself.

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    kathleen @ the daily crumb November 9, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    70 degrees?! jealous! it’s cold land rainy in chicago.

    that smoothie looks delicious… did the carrot blend in? i’m always looking for immunity boosting eats and drinks as the cold weather rolls in.

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    LIsa (bakebikeblog) November 9, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    what an interesting presentation!

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    Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife November 9, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    I’d be out on a walk with that kind of weather too. Have fun!

    I love a good smoothie with tons of berries and Kefir, it is a great way to boost that immunity! I also use essential oil blends that have been shown to reduce the risk of disease, and even kill germs. I haven’t been sick in over 1.5 years! Wahoo :)

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    Tina H. November 9, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Thanks for sharing. Thanks also for the recipes. I’m going to have to try the sweet potato one. Here in NC after the field workers harvest what they need (they have to be a certain size), they leave a ton. Most farmers allow people to glean what is left for free; otherwise, they are left to rot and then be plowed under. This year sweet potatoes were planted in the fields across from my house. Needless to say, I have a lot! They have already cured, so they’re ready to be cooked.

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    katie @ KatieDid November 9, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    Mmm carrots in a smoothie?! Does it blend well? I bet it makes it slightly sweet. I learn about the negative effects of overtraining on the immune system in some of my classes. There definitely is a level at which exercise can be detrimental to one’s health. Here’s to hoping that smoothie did its job!

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    Alaina November 9, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    You said you were going to make your sweet potatoes that way and you didn’t waste any time! They look delicious.

    I don’t remember getting too sick after my marathon but I did get sick after my 10k. I definitely did not take care of myself that much for that race.

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    Julia H. @ The Petite Spiel November 9, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    VERY interesting. I wasn’t aware of the ‘marathon sniffles’ concept! Here’s hoping that immunity smoothie treats you well!

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    Sarah S. November 9, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    I guess if I really think about it, it’s not odd, but I found the “hugs are okay, high fives are not” concept odd. Really? You can put your face next to mine, but we can’t touch hands? Okay… He’s the expert. I was very impressed with all of your traveling before hand and proud that you didn’t get sick (or just slap exhausted). Go you!

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    Kim November 9, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Sweet potato wedges are my new fav! Those look amazing! :)

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    Kristen @ notsodomesticated November 9, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    I wrote you a long “congrats” message yesterday regarding your marathon, but then something happened and it didn’t post properly haha. So congrats again!! ;)

    And our weather in Ohio has been nice, too … but tomorrow it’s supposed to drop into the 40s. Bummer!

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    Lauri November 9, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    I need to pick up that copy of Runner’s World – i went to high school with and was friends with one of the girls on the cover – Blonde hair on the left – from CA. She is an amazing runner with a great story! There is also a video on the Runner’s World website documenting her family’s story….

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    Tiff @ Love Sweat and Beers November 9, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    A massage, eh? I think I could handle that!

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    Erika - The Teenage Taste November 9, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    Ooooh, that smoothie looks yummy! Never thought of putting a carrot in a smoothie before – did it give the smoothie a weird texture?

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    Tina November 9, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    I didn’t even notice it was in there!

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    lauren November 9, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    Sounds like an interesting presentation, it makes sense that vigorous training would has an impact on our bodies – it seems most stress does.
    I’ll have to check out that article in Runner’s World, I’ve been neglecting my magazines lately.
    Could you taste the carrot? I made the mistake of adding some leftover green pepper to a smoothie once…it was gross. LOL, it sounds gross. I wasn’t thinking.

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    Tina November 10, 2011 at 8:29 am

    I couldn’t taste the carrot at all, but I’ve definitely added not-so-tasty things to smoothies. Broccoli doesn’t work either!

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    Heidi November 9, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    Interesting! I only heard of this exercise related immune-system weakening a few days ago.

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    Michelle (The Runner's Plate) November 9, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    I’m so jealous of your nice weather! It currently feels like mid-January in Anchorage: 15* and a foot of snow on the ground. :( I’m not enjoying it!

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    Clare @ sweetnsimple November 9, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    Mmm that smoothie looks delish.. and I loove sweet potato wedges! :)

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    Jane & Jane's Addictions November 9, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    The smoothie looks awesome and straight forward even for smoothie newbies like myself to make :)

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    Tina November 10, 2011 at 8:29 am

    It was a good one! :)

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    Robin November 9, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    Stay healthy! I got really sick last year after a half-marathon and everything you just wrote makes perfect sense to me!

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    Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga November 9, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    I am prone to post ‘big event’ respiratory stuff. In college, after exams or being on winter break, THAT’s when I would get hit.. My immune system would relax and I’d get sick or same after a big race or physical challenge. Great tips, Tina!

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    Tina November 10, 2011 at 8:28 am

    Yep! Same here! My mom always gets sick before Thanksgiving because it’s a crazy time at her work.

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    Jodi @ Southern Flavored Life November 9, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    Hmmm…I didn’t know that hard exercise could actually supress your immune system? You learn something every day…

    It was SO pretty here in Tennessee today, too!

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    Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin November 9, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    That’s really interesting! I hope you don’t get sick. :)

    Do you have a Vita-Mix or were you able to blend the carrot in a regular blender? I’m scared of breaking my blender if I try to blend a carrot!

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    Kathleen @ Ocean Full of Lemons November 9, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    @Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin: I had the same question – what kind of blender did you use? I don’t think my blender would be able to handle a carrot :(

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    Tina November 10, 2011 at 8:28 am

    I have a Vita-Mix, but I think if you broke it up or even cut it into smaller pieces, it would blend in!

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    Rachel~Dressed to Dish November 9, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    I’m gearing up for my FIRST half marathon this Saturday and am scared of my “sniffles” turning into a horrible cold overnight…thanks for sharing those tips and advice!! :)

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    Tina November 10, 2011 at 8:26 am

    GOOD LUCK!!!!!!!!!

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    Jen November 9, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    Do you have a pre-defined amount of time that you’re taking off after the marathon or is it more just a ‘see how I feel’ kinda thing? I’ve never run a marathon so I don’t know (sorry if it’s a dumb question).

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    Tina November 10, 2011 at 8:26 am

    I’ve heard you’re supposed to take it easy as many days as the race, so a marathon would be 26 days of light exercise. But, I feel pretty good today, so I’ll probably get back to exercise today or tomorrow– just probably not running for another week or so.

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    Jennifer @ Peanut Butter and Peppers November 9, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    Wish I didn’t make dinner, your sweet potatoes look so good!! I love sweet potato’s!!

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    ~Christy @ wonderofallthings November 9, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    Great sign that you’re ready to get back out there. And at 70 degrees outside (??!?), who can blame you! :) Hope you enjoyed your afternoon!

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    Hilary November 9, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    I’ve never tried kefir….do you drink it a lot? Always in smoothies or on its own?

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    Tina November 10, 2011 at 8:25 am

    I always add it to smoothies. It’s okay as a drink, but better in smoothies.

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    Cat @Breakfast to Bed November 9, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    It was downright ridiculously beautiful in nyc today. LOVED it.

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    Katie @ Livehalffull November 9, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    I could have used this after my marathon, I totally got sick!!!

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    Khushboo November 9, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    Interesting tips, although any idea why hugs are OK but not handshakes?

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    Katelyn @ Chef Katleyn November 10, 2011 at 12:26 am

    AHHH I MISS MY RUNNER’S WORLD!! It’s official. That’s going on my christmas list. Subscription, check and check.

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    Nicola November 10, 2011 at 3:15 am

    Thats interesting about the higher cortisol levels after 45 mins of exercise. Cortisol is also linked to belly fat and my belly certainly feels shall we say ‘softer’ now that i’ve started marathon training.

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    Emily @ Life on Food November 10, 2011 at 7:21 am

    Those are great tips for anyone in a stressful situation…ie being incredibly busy at work. Thanks for sharing.

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    Peggi November 10, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Where do you find the Kefir yogurt drinks?

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    Tina November 10, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Whole Foods

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    Peggi November 10, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    Thanks!

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    Quana November 10, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    So Tina I’ve been enjoying your blog! I finished the Chicago Marathon in October for a PR of 4:16:02 however, I’ve packed on a few pounds post Marathon and struggling trying to get it off. Any suggestions!!

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    Kayla @ Learningtosayyes.com November 12, 2011 at 10:59 am

    something I have found interesting is the effects of acupuncture on my immune system over the past 2 years. there have been at least 3 occasions when I should have gotten sick (including the past 2 weeks with 4 long haul flights, 1 half marathon, and changes in temperatures) but I haven’t. Nice side benefit to the overall holistic care and the runners knee inflammation :)

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    Heidi June 6, 2012 at 10:56 am

    I’m a little late, but I’m happy that you posted this! I have the marathon sniffles now, despite my best efforts, and there’s only 20 days between my marathons this cycle, so I’m hoping to get better quickly! I’m off to make a berry smoothie :)

    Reply

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