The runners’ nightmare scenario: 15 weeks into a 16-week marathon schedule, tingling nose, sneezing, itching, sore throat, running nose. All tell-tale signs that the dreaded cold is on its way.
Runners training for a marathon or other important event will often make themselves social outcasts during the last few weeks of preparation.
There is plenty of advice out there about how to avoid catching a cold and mostly we know it anyway:
- frequent hand washing
- avoid the gym
- avoid other people, especially children
- eat well
- drink plenty
- sleep well
- don’t shake hands with anyone
In short, don’t meet anyone and don’t touch anything.
In reality of course it’s not that easy to completely isolate yourself from the cold virus. It’s transmitted by inhalation and touch, so it’s virtually impossible to avoid it. Indeed, in one research study, volunteers with the cold virus were asked to spend a night in a hotel. The rooms were then examined and 35% of everything the guests had touched was contaminated. Furthermore, 18 hours after contamination, more volunteers were exposed to these surfaces and the virus was transmitted to them at a rate of 33%.
So, with high risks of exposure and transfer of the virus, what can we do to reduce our chances of succumbing to the cold?
According to a recent study, a lack of sleep is the biggest predictor of catching a cold. Subjects who slept less than 6 hours a night were 4.2 times more likely to catch the cold than those who slept more than 7 hours a night.
The study’s lead author, DR Aric Prather, PhD, said, ‘Short sleep was more important than any other factor in predicting subjects’ likelihood of catching cold’.
When you couple this information with the well known fact that long training runs temporarily decrease immune function, then it becomes vital that you do all you can to ensure you get enough sleep during the latter parts of your training cycle.
More info from University of California and San Francisco