Tips to Avoid Getting Sick

‘Tis the season where everyone is sniffling, sneezing, and coughing. When you get sick, even if it’s a small cold, it makes a big impact on your training and performance. We all want to be healthy all the time, so how can we avoid getting sick? 

In this blog, we’ll look into the four pillars of health and wellness, and explore measures we can implement to decrease our chances of becoming ill. 

Four pillars of health

  1. Sleep

  2. Nutrition

  3. Movement/Activity

  4. Stress

These four pillars create a healthy lifestyle. Many times, people try to improve their lifestyle by focusing on all pillars at once. However, this can be overwhelming and can lead to burnout, inconsistency, and lack of motivation. Instead, focus on creating healthy habits for one pillar; that will bleed into the other pillars. Once consistency is achieved for a period of time, you will notice that all pillars are interrelated and healthy habits are achieved in all pillars. All it takes is one step at a time and making small, sustainable changes to your healthy habits.

Small changes you can make that can help you out include: setting a consistent sleep schedule (bedtime and wake up time), eating more whole foods through the plate method, walking three times a week after dinner, or journaling when you wake up.

Factors that increase risk of illness

The four pillars of health should always be optimized; when they are not “so great”, we increase our chances of getting ill. Below are factors that put us at higher risk of getting sick:

  1. Increased training loads (physical stress)— those who have higher training volumes and train at very high intensities (elite athletes) are more likely to get sick because of immune suppression as shown in the image to the left. The image shows that those who chronically exercise (recreational athletes) get less sick than sedentary individuals, which is as expected. However, elite athletes get sick a lot more often than both recreational athletes and sedentary individuals. This can be due to their high level of training volume, increased mental pressure to perform at a higher level, traveling for games which impacts sleep, and low energy intake to maintain weight standards (for sports like wrestling, etc).

  2. Inconsistent schedule– this leads to poor recovery and poor sleep routines. As mentioned in previous posts and backed by a myriad amount of studies, sleep and recovery is vital for overall health and performance. 

  3. Poor nutrition– when one is not consuming nutrient-dense foods, or is limiting their caloric intake too much, they are not receiving the necessary energy intake for their bodies to perform. Thus, eating too few calories leads to illness because the body is unable to recover. Further, if one is not eating nutrient-dense foods, they are not providing their body the nutrients it needs to keep the immune system functioning at optimal levels. One example is low iron intake; iron is a mineral that impacts oxygen transport and subsequently energy metabolism and immune function. 

  4. High levels of mental stress– have you ever trained when stressed about work or life? It usually has a huge impact on your performance. It also has a huge impact on your immune system as well because it impacts nutrition and recovery. 

What measures can we take?

  1. Make small changes to your training load progressively. Do NOT jump too much or increase your training loads at too fast of a rate. If you go to the Telos Group Classes or do personal training with us, we manage that for you so that you can move up at a sustainable pace. If you take care of your own training, it is recommended that your training manipulations don’t result in more than a ~10% load increase on average week to week.

  2. Listen to your body when it feels fatigued from training. This may be a sign you are not recovering properly or overreaching. Signs of overreaching include: increased tiredness, loss of performance, and slow recovery.

  3. Consume nutrient-dense foods. This is something we preach. Eat enough fruits and vegetables, get enough protein, make sure to drink water, and avoid excess alcohol consumption.

  4. Manage stress. Have you ever heard the quote “you are going to worry yourself sick?” Mental health is extremely important to our overall health. Recommended stress management techniques include gratitude journals, meditation, and having a social support network. 

  5. Recover. Get enough sleep. Give your body time to relax. Take rest days. Do mobility work.