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How Runners Can Avoid Getting Sick

Stay Healthy and Prevent Colds

By

Updated May 16, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

No one wants to be sidelined from running because of a cold or similar illness, especially if you're training for a big race, like a marathon. Here are some ways runners can boost their immunity and avoid getting sick:

Drink Water.

Staying hydrated is important to prevent illness, and water is the best, least expensive option. Make sure that you're drinking water during the day and also hydrating properly before, during, and after your runs.

Eat Balanced Meals Every Day.

Make sure you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, which contain antioxidants that strengthen your immune system and help prevent colds. Also, limit your saturated fats, as they decrease your immunity and make you more susceptible to colds.

Wash Your Hands.

Be sure to wash your hands frequently. Hand-washing is the most important thing you can do to prevent the spread of disease.

Get to Bed on Time.

Sleep deprivation can make you more susceptible to colds and other illnesses. Getting proper sleep -- at least 7 to 8 hours per night -- will boost your immune system.

More: Tips for Better Sleep

Don't Do Too Much Too Soon.

Avoid increasing both your intensity and your weekly mileage at the same time. Bump up your mileage, and then hold it at that level for a week or two before adding in some speed workouts. Make sure you're taking at least one rest day a week to avoid overtraining. Ramping up your intensity or mileage too quickly can wear you out, making you more susceptible to both colds and running injuries.

Taper For Big Races.

If you're running a big race, such as a marathon, it's important to cut back your mileage in the final two to three weeks before your race. This tapering period will allow your immune system to recover from all the hard training you've been doing and make you less susceptible to a pre-race cold.

More: How to Taper Before a Marathon

Run Outside.

The idea that you'll catch a cold because you're underdressed or wearing wet clothes outside in cold weather is really an old wives' tale. Actually, you're more likely to catch a cold if you stay inside all the time because that's where germs can thrive and spread. So, the more you can get outside during the winter, the better. Of course, it's still important to dress properly for running in cold weather to prevent other issues such as hypothermia and frostbite.

Avoid Germs at the Gym.

With all the people, sweat, and warmth, gyms can be the ideal breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. When running at the gym, make sure you wash your hands before and after workouts, wipe down all machines before and after use, and bring your own towel.

More: Tips for Avoiding Germs at the Gym

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