Flu Prevention for Runners

Pay Attention to Comfort

Your body works hard to maintain a healthy equilibrium, known as homeostasis, which is how you stay “comfortable” and in balance. For example, thermo-regulation maintains your body at a fairly constant temperature. When you exercise during the late fall and winter months, it’s a little more challenging, but your goal is to stay as “comfortable” as possible. If you’re chilled, or your ears hurt, your head aches, or you’re uncomfortable in any other way, pay attention and do what you can to change that.

Stay Warm and Dry

The best way to dress for running in winter weather is to layer so you don’t get either too cold or too hot. A good base layer is important to help you avoid getting chilled at the end of your exercise. Moisture-wicking fabrics lift moisture away from your skin so you don’t feel damp as you do in natural fabrics. It’s important to change out of your clothes as soon as possible, and if possible, take a shower. Warm, hot, or cold is fine, depending on what you prefer — choose what makes you feel comfortable.

Beware Indoor Air Pollution

Flu virus germs are airborne, so anytime you’re in a crowded room or have close contact with other people, you’re likely to be exposed to cold and flu germs. I’m not suggesting that telling you not to stay at home or avoid seeing your friends; your friends — when you’re undergoing intense training, you have likely already estranged a few! However, you may want to avoid sick contacts who are sick as you get closer to the Kaiser Permanente 5K and Half Marathon and 5K.

Other Flu Prevention Tips

Always keep your hands clean and minimize touching your face, especially your nose and eyes, which are direct routes into the nasal passages for germs. Germs can survive on common surfaces such as doorknobs for as long as three hours, so don’t touch your face after opening doors, shaking hands, or touching anything else where germs may lurk.

Get Your Healthy Rest

Keep in mind that exercise can compromise your immune system.  When you’re training hard, you can be more susceptible to infection. Therefore, it’s imperative that you get your rest, which you may have need to prioritize, or even schedule. At this point during your in training, managing your time may get tricky. If you have to cancel a training session because you don’t feel well, or cancel a social activity because you have to train, try not to feel guilty for either scenario. You’re in training, and it won’t always be this way.

Brian Soo is a senior physical therapist at the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center who works inpatient, outpatient, and in sports medicine.  A recreational runner for many years, Brian also bicycles, plays racquetball, and most importantly, paddles on a 20-person Dragon Boat team that competes internationally and practices three times a week. He also enjoys active video games and believes they can be an excellent complement to an overall fitness regime.