• 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.


    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.


    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!


    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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    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!)

    IMG_0010 (800x600)

    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

    IMG_0018 (800x600)IMG_0022 (600x800)

    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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    { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

    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 🙂


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