Last Updated on October 12, 2012.
10 Things You Can Do to Stay Healthy this Winter
By Dax Alexander – TSMMA Manhattan
Well, it’s that time of year folks, when the fall foliage beautifies this great city, and the area’s inhabitants turn into walking, talking weaponized germ factories. Now, I’m not a germaphobe, but as I sit in the Petri dish that my office has become I am inspired to write a post about what we can all do to stay a little healthier this winter. Catching a cold sucks, and the only thing worse is getting the flu. Both interrupt your training (and not in the good free-day-off kind of way) and the latter can make you pray for someone to rear naked-choke you out of your misery. So here are some tips that can help you avoid the flu and common cold this winter.
1) Stop believing in myths
While it’s true that winter is cold and flu season here in the Northeast, it’s not the low temperatures that make you ill. Folks tend to stay indoors in colder months, which puts you in close proximity to others. It’s these close quarters that increase your exposure to viruses and germs from others, which in turn, makes you ill. In warmer climates, the flu season is actually the rainy season for similar reasons.
2) Stay hydrated by drinking water
Fluids support your immune system, helping it work properly to fight viruses in the environment. Hard training will cause you to loose 1 liter of water per hour through sweat. You have to replace this water and maintain your fluid levels throughout the day. Two to three liters a day is enough on average, though you may need more depending on your training program.
3) Stop touching your face
Next time you’re in a public place, like the New York City Subway, take note of how many times you see someone touch their face. Maybe it’s to rub their eyes, scratch their nose or pick in their ear (which is gross). It’s little actions like those that get germs closer to the openings in your head, major entry points into your body. So for the love of all things sacred, avoid touching your face when out in public. Your hair is fine and that itch won’t kill you. And if you’re one of those guys that sticks his finger in his nose while out in public, then you deserve what you get.
4) Wash your hands
I can’t tell you how important this is. Now, I’m not a fan of OCD-like washing, but washing your hands before touching your food is pretty critical, as well as when you visit the bathroom (like that’s even in question…right?) Instant hand sanitizers are great for those moments when washing your hands isn’t an option.
5) Disinfect your gloves
Remember that cross you landed on that guy’s face during sparring? Nice one! Well, he’s left a present for you on the front of your gloves. He’ll get the last laugh in the end unless after training, you disinfect your gloves and shin guards with antibacterial wipes or Lysol.
6) Take a multivitamin
There is some degree of evidence that vitamins such as Vitamin C can help limit the impact of a cold. It’s too late to start taking it after you’ve become ill because it doesn’t appear to have any benefit after your system has been compromised.
7) Consider getting a yearly flu shot
While some argue over its safety or effectiveness, hundreds of millions of flu vaccines have been administered over the years, and “almost all people who receive influenza vaccine have no serious problems from it.” (CDC) Though very rare serious allergic reactions have occurred, it’s something the CDC and most physicians strongly recommend. Read more about it here.
8 ) Dress appropriately
I know I said that cold weather doesn’t directly cause a cold or the flu, but prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures will overload the immune system, making you more susceptible to the cold and flu viruses. Yes, dressing for the weather sounds a bit old fashioned, but old people are smart! So listen to your grandma and put on a hat.
9) Shower after training
I have to say that TSMMA does an awesome job of keeping their mats clean, but viruses can be tricky little things, and you never know what you may have picked up from your partner when you did that awesome flying armbar. Showering after class gets all that gunk off you (and it’s a great way to relax your muscles). You should shower before training as well for similar reasons. Bringing germs onto the mat will get everyone sick.
10) If you’re sick, change your training
The contagious period for the flu and cold can be substantial. From the day before you first show symptoms to several days after. In fact, a cold’s contagious period could be up to two weeks. I’d be lying if I told you I stopped training when I had a cold. There are many things you can still do, and moderate exercise naturally boosts the immune system. When you have a cold, hitting the bag or even light sparring can be a great way to do this. Grappling, however, can be a cause for concern because you will likely make your partner ill and upset enough to mention it on an MMA blog *cough*.
Put on a hat! Go train!