Five Tips to Boost Your Immune System

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Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

It’s no secret that this year’s flu season has been especially brutal. Offices are filled with hacking co-workers and schools with sniffling children. While there’s nothing you can do to stop those nasty germs from invading your personal space, you can build up your natural defenses to prevent them from giving you a cold. Because let’s face it, being sick takes us away from the stuff we love, like paddling. These five tips will help you strengthen your immune system so that you spend more time on the water and less time stuck in bed. –Jack Haworth

Eat Better

This should be a no-brainer, but that’s not the case for some people. If your input equals your output, then you don’t want to be stuffing cheeseburgers, donuts and junk food down your gullet. Instead, opt for a more plant-based, whole-food diet.

This means including more healthy options such as spirulina, which is not only a complete protein source, but also high in vitamin B-12, which can increase oxygen uptake by assisting red blood cell development and vitamin K, which reduces inflammation. Juicing is another great way to get multiple servings of fruits and vegetables into your diet with one delicious drink.

You should also remember to embrace the power of endurance-increasing beets and spinach, a fine choice for iron, which, among other things, supports a healthy immune system.

Cold weather and no rest makes for sick days. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

Sleep Well

Late nights and early mornings will usually earn you a one-way ticket to a nasty cold. Your body needs sleep to recover and fight off infections. This is especially the case for paddlers, who need energy to perform at their best. While everyone is different, we suggest that you aim to get at least eight or nine hours of shuteye per night.

If your sleep gets cut short, try to carve out time for a 15- to 45-minute nap. Just be sure to stay away from your tablet, phone and laptop beforehand–looking at a screen has been shown to disrupt sleep patterns.

Take Recovery Days

One of the biggest mistakes for elite paddlers is to overtrain. While it’s tempting to live by the mantra of “take no off-days,” that’s only going to leave you with injuries and a weakened immune system. Instead, listen to your body and back off when a full-on paddling session isn’t going to fly.

This can either mean taking a full rest day or cross-training with another activity at lower intensity. Whether that be a walk, round of golf or simply plopping down on the couch for a Friends marathon on Netflix.

Get a Blood Test 

Okay, this may sound a bit over-the-top at first. But no matter how much Vitamin C you’re consuming, if other parts of your diet are lacking it’s gonna be tough to fight off those sniffles. While you can try to estimate where you’re lacking, a blood test will give you a quantitative analysis that leaves no question about where your dietary shortcomings are. Once you have the results, you can make the necessary changes to feel better and perform at your peak.

Pick and Choose Races

If you have the race bug, it’s easy to get carried away and start racing every weekend. And while we’re all for getting after it, there is such a thing a too much racing. Instead of entering every race you can find, pick no more than a couple of races a month, and be sure to back off your training in the days following a downwind or intense sprint event so your body has the chance to recover. Your immune system will thank you.

The article was originally published on Standup Paddling

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