Top 10 tips: Ward off coughs and colds

In the UK we fitness lovers know this time of year all too well. The seasons have shifted, bringing coughs, colds, sneezes and viruses with it, and they seem to spread like wild fire.

If you’ve got your training regime down pat, it’s really disheartening when you start feeling under the weather and know you’re going down with something.

Try these keep-healthy tips for size to stave off the autumn bugs, and recover more quickly if you get struck…

Drink plenty of water

Don’t let yourself get dehydrated. You may not feel like eating or drinking much, but don’t succumb. Keep a bottle of fresh water nearby and keep swigging. If you don’t, you’ll feel much worse for it, and be more prone to headaches.

Get your vitamin C!

Get yourself to the greengrocer’s and the chemist. Clementines and oranges are tasty, seasonal, and full of vitamin C. Swap any alcohol for tonic or sparkling water, plenty of ice, and the juice of a whole lime or lemon. Steam yourself some broccoli, try grapefruit for breakfast, and sneak cooked kale into your lunch. And if all else fails, boost a healthy diet with a Vit-C supplement. You can find Berroca or own-brand equivalents at most chemists, or effervescent Sambucol tabs (no relative of the liquor!) at your nearest Holland and Barrett. 

Don’t succumb to comfort eating

When training is in full swing, spurred on by light mornings and evenings, you feel motivated to eat healthily. But when you feel sluggish and a bit down in the dumps, the temptation can be to reach for the cookies and take-out pizza, and leave the apples and grapes in the fruit bowl. But if you let your diet plummet, your body won’t be getting all the nutrients it needs to help stave off and fight germs.

Be mindful. Give yourself a limit for these foods, or find alternatives. If you really need that chocolate fix, try a high-quality variety with a 70% or 80% cocoa content, as dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants. And if you want pizza, get a plain base or (if you’ve got the energy) make up a wholemeal dough and load up your own pizza with lots of tasty fresh veg and garlic, and chicken (if you’re not a veggie). Don’t skimp on the cheese – a little of what you fancy really can do you good and improve your mood.

Keep your fitness up (but don’t over-do it)

Getting ill is frustrating, but pushing through can make it last longer. Pay your body some respect. If you ignore your symptoms and push your body too far you could end up with something far worse than decreased fitness, such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Taking yourself out for a gentle, then moderate walk to see how you feel is a good test of where you’re at. If you feel good after these, then start on a gentle run or cycle, but monitor your pace. If you don’t feel quite right, don’t force yourself; try again another day.

Take Echinacea

Many people swear blind by this immune system-boosting herbal tincture, which is used to stave off and relieve the symptoms of cold, flu and similar upper respiratory tract infections. You can find it in most health food shops and supermarkets. Add 15 drops to water and drink, two-three times a day. Even if homeopathy isn’t your bag, there’s no harm in giving it a go. 

Wash your hands regularly and keep anti-bac in your bag

Unless you’re city-based and regularly taking the tube or catching public buses, you may not be thinking about washing your hands regularly. It goes without saying that you should wash your hands after going to the bathroom, but at this time of year, being extra vigilant could pay dividends. If you work for a big organisation or an open-plan office, germs are easily transmitted, so try washing your hands after any hand-shaking meet-and-greet exercise, and before eating. Keep some anti-bac in your bag and use it regularly.

Work from home if you can

If you’re able to work from home and you’re feeling under the weather, don’t drag yourself into the office. No one will appreciate you sharing your germs and you’ll just drag out your symptoms for longer with the added stress of having to ‘put a face on’.

Accept it, and rest up

Listen to your body. Being frustrated isn’t going to make you feel any better, but shutting off your work laptop and that blinking eye of your blackberry is bound to help you on to a speedier recovery.

Get a good night’s sleep

Disrupted sleep, or burning the candle at both ends, is all-too easy when you’re trying to keep up with the demands of work and a social schedule. But it’s also the sure-fire way to make yourself more susceptible to autumn and winter colds and viruses. If you’ve been working or partying too hard, get those hours back. Go to bed earlier, cut down on your drinking, and avoid caffeine after 4pm. Your body needs those hours to repair, recover, and fight back if germs are on the approach.

Get some fresh air

Get yourself out into a green space and get some fresh air and daylight. It’s harder to do this as the days draw in, but it’s essential for lifting your mood and banishing lethargy.

For more healthy living advice, click here.