Wednesday, December 11, 2013

5 Ways to Stay Healthy this Running Season

Lauren Leonard is back for this month's guest blog!  She is giving us some very timely and wise advice as we stare down the holiday season with good intentions... 

Running is the key to surviving the holiday season for many us. There is nothing like a good run to help escape the holiday hustle and bustle, manage stress, prevent weight gain, and help boost one’s immune system.  And while running wards off many of the health hazards that arise this time of year, any benefits are thrown out the window if we are sidelined by a cold or worse – the flu! Here are a few preventative tips to keep you healthy and pounding the pavement well through holiday season:

       1.  Tis’ the Season to Breathe Fresh Air - When conditions allow, opt to exercise outdoors. There is no question exercise will help build a strong immune system but try to do so in the fresh air. Indoor gyms and classes that share equipment can be a Pertri dish for germs. Since most people are contagious before they realize they are sick, magazines, treadmills buttons, and free weights are likely already infested with germs.  By the way, if you are already feeling sick, the general rule of thumb is that when symptoms are above the neck (sneezing and sniffles) go ahead and workout. If you have a fever over 100, a cough or chills, hold off for a couple of days.

      2.  Ho Ho Hold the Sugar! - Did you know that most colds and illnesses start on Halloween? That is when the “sugar season” begins and consumption of sweets goes rampant. Sugar is lurking everywhere from gyms, hair salons, office parties and is a favorite gift among friends and family making it hard to resist. However, consuming refined sugar in excess depresses the immune system and GREATLY increases your chances of getting sick. Instead curb your sweet tooth with naturally sweet foods such as blueberries and sweet potatoes, which are loaded with antioxidants. If you struggle with strong sugar cravings contact Lauren to discuss how you can feel empowered to stop them for good!
      3. Happy Gut, Happy Holidays! -Your gut is ground zero for the immune system. Make sure you are getting ample probiotics through your food in order to maintain healthy levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut and intestines. Good sources include yogurt, kefir, miso, and other fermented foods and beverage such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha. Check out this recipe for Asian Style Miso Pasta.

      4.  Festive Seasonings - Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Many foods provide powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits that help optimize the immune system.  When used regularly tasty foods like garlic, turmeric, and ginger can help ward off colds and even the flu. Meanwhile spicy foods like horseradish can help clean out the sinuses -- so bring on the shrimp and cocktail sauce and check out these disease-fighting recipes.  

      5. Holiday Drinking Rules - Drink lots of water to flush germs out of the body. Research suggests that drinking plenty of non-alcoholic liquids may actually wash cold and flu viruses from your throat into your stomach where they can’t survive. Just as staying hydrated is essential to running your best, so too does the immune system need water for peak performance!

Bottom line - Prevention is the key. Support your immune system by doing the basics -- eat right, sleep right, exercise, get fresh air, and wash your hands. Here’s to a Happy and Healthy Holiday!  

Lauren Leonard is a certified yoga instructor, nutrition counselor, running coach and fitness instructor committed to helping runner’s achieve their goals. By incorporating nutrition, fitness and mindfulness, Lauren offers a holistic approach to health that is both gradual and sustainable. Learn more at Lauren Leonard Health.