Moderate exercise assists healthy immune system function, making it more robust.
Last month’s Endurance Athlete Health & Wellness Workshop took place at The Mountain Project here in Bozeman. For those of you not familiar with TMP, it is a GOLDMINE of a resource for endurance athletes. TMP owner, Mike Wolfe, along with his amazing team of trainers, have been working hard to help athletes continue their training while remaining motivated and socially connected, even while seasons are upended and future event dates are uncertain. (You can now join a virtual TMP class here. We promise: you will NOT be disappointed!)
In an email to his clients this week, Mike offered some sage words of advice that we would like to share with you here, that are specific to endurance training during this time of uncertainty. Thank you, Mike, for allowing us to share the following:
Train, Do Not Strain
I’m sure you’ve all thought about it, or read about it. How much, or how hard, should athletes (or anyone) be training/exercising right now? If some of you suddenly have an inordinate amount of time on your hands, and increased stress levels, my suspicion is that some of you just ramped up your training to more than normal. We wanted to provide some sound, and researched, advice for our community of athletes on this topic, in a simple fashion:
- Moderate exercise assists healthy immune system function, making it more robust.
- Too much, or too little exercise, equals increased risk of infection.
- Immediately after a hard workout, your immune system is redirected to focus on system recovery, rather than immunity.
- If you push up your training volume and intensity to over-reaching or near-over training, your risk of infection likely goes up.
- Large or drastic changes are likely the most risky, so:
- If you are a highly trained athlete, or you simply exercise very regularly, it’s likely fine to continue your “normal.” So, if you do 3 hard gym workouts a week normally, this is fine to continue. If you regularly go on 12 mile runs, this is fine to continue. If you normally do 1 hard gym workout a week, but just jacked that up to 3 hard gym workouts a week, due to stress, cabin fever, and extra time, this might be too much. If you regularly go on 3 miles runs, but in the past 2 weeks you’ve been hammering 8 miles runs….think twice. As will all things, ease in gradually to change.
- Hard workouts? Again, if you are regularly doing hard interval workouts, or demanding gym sessions, it’s likely fine to continue. Otherwise, take a more moderate approach to increasing your exercise load and intensity.
- There is some research evidence that long-duration exercise (more so than intensity exercise) has a more draining effect on your immune system. How long is too long? Depends upon how well trained you are as an athlete.
Keep It Simple
- Sleep! Hydrate!
- Exercise regularly, at least in moderation.
- Eat quality food, a balanced diet, as best you can.
- Do not fall into a chronically slightly stressed state. TURN OFF YOUR DAMN PHONE. Don’t scroll through worthless Tweets or Facebook all day.
- Do not “go to the well” in training. In other words, do not workout so hard you stress your system so that you are more susceptible to any kind of illness.
- Manage your psychological stress! Give yourself a mental break: turn off screens, be outside, meditate, yoga [did I just say that??!!]….you know what to do!
- If you do a harder or longer workout than normal, make sure to immediately replenish water and food, and rest.
- Practice social distancing when exercising: for now, go solo.
- You’re all intelligent people…well, most of you are. Anyway, be intuitive, listen to your body, and your mind.
Thank you, Mike, for these really solid reminders of how to care for ourselves during a time of significant stress. For some, that stress may result from immeasurable worries about the health and safety of friends, neighbors, loved ones, and even ourselves. For others, the stress may result from changed routines and altered norms, including social isolation, lost jobs or requirements to work from home. For others, still, stress may revolve around cancelled or postponed athletic seasons and not knowing whether to keep training for a near or distant future event.
In this post, we talked about how we can use this time of potentially altered or interrupted training cycles to reflect on who we are as well-rounded (or not-so well-rounded) humans. We stick by the importance of that. But for those who wish to continue their training with as little interruption as possible, and because physical activity can be a GREAT stress reliever, follow Mike’s advice, and keep it simple.
And remember: this, too, shall pass.