How to avoid sickness

So many threads here about recovery from sickness, but I’m wondering what hints people have for avoiding sickness.

I keep getting sick. Since October I’ve done three runs of Low volume SSB1 and one mid-level SSB2. Over that period I’ve been sick four different times with various bouts of flu, cold and food poisoning. Altogether my recovery time has cut my total training time available since October by about six weeks.

All told, in the four months since November my FTP has improved from a meagre 195w to a paltry 202W. Each time I get about 4 weeks of good training which gets nullified by 2 weeks of recovery from illness.

So, two questions

  • any tips to avoid sickness? Diet tips maybe?
  • I now have 10 weeks left to my first target ride (an amateur version of the Taiwan KOM). Now that I’ve completed four different sets of sweet spot base, would it be better to move onto the Build phase, even though my FTP hasn’t really improved in the Sweet Spot phase?

Thanks in advance.
49 years male, 70-71Kg, human.

You don’t give much information regarding your different times getting sick so regard this as a stab in the dark and by no means intended to offend.

If you get food poisoning while eating out that is just bad luck or maybe a bad choice of establishment. If you get it at home you have to look at your cleanliness and how you handle your food.

The same for flu and cold. Are you washing your hands properly and following other hygiene tips? If you have small children avoiding a cold is near impossible. Likewise if you commute to work by mass transit you greatly increase your exposure to bacteria.

If you feel that this don’t apply to you I would suggest you go talk to your doctor to see if there might be any underlying causes that makes you sick so often.

I’ve been using Sterimar saline nasal spray daily to rinse out my nasal passages, alcohol hand rub, proactively avoiding sick people and washing my hands more frequently. That all seems to have helped. I’ve also been disinfectant wiping my workspace more often than in the past. It all seems to help. I think the most important thing is to be proactive about it, rather than just passively hoping you won’t get sick. Sounds like you’ve got the right mindset.

Hygiene and all that is good, but I think it all comes down to the basics, just as it does with training and performance. Sleep, hydration, and nutrition. Those three key pillars are so important and often overlooked. I know for me when I do get sick, it’s firstly because of not enough sleep with a little dose of dehydration.


obviously there are many aspects to be controlled to avoid sickness so I will only say those in addition to behaviors that I consider normal and only those related to outdoor sports:

  • multivitamin supplement
  • Omega3 supplement
  • eat lots of vegetables and seasonal fruit
  • do not use excessive home heating
  • dressing up properly, almost all the cyclists I see are dressed too much, go out and sweat: the sweat freeze on the lungs, and you get sick; it must be (a little) cold as you go out: with the movement you heats up

Get a flu vaccination

A few things you have control over:
Hygiene, wash your hands a lot. You’re getting food poisoning frequently? Change your diet and eating habits. When I’ve suffered that in the past I avoided going out for long periods of time. Also, wash your hands. Drink excess water when you feel the “twinge” of a cold or other illness coming on. I drink twice as much water when I feel like I’m fighting something, with the goal being clear urine, and frequent once an hour bathroom breaks. Did I mention hand washing?

And, the best is just sleep and rest. Strive for an extra hour of sleep if you can when you’re feeling something coming on. I’ve learned that I can move my easy endurance rides to an evening and it won’t affect my sleep too much. I normally prefer all my TR work to be done in the AM but will prioritize sleep and rest when I’m feeling less than fresh or believe I’m fighting something. Getting that extra sleep is more important than the endurance or recovery ride I may have scheduled in times of duress. Think of the big picture in moments like that.

Learn to be super flexible with your plans. I think it’s best to skip or reschedule break through and HI days when you’re feeling run down. For me, either taking another rest day or replacing a HI day for an endurance ride or recovery ride seems to work well. Check in with yourself often and try to get back on it when you’re feeling better. Also, learn to pull the plug on tough days when your HR seems lower or higher than it should for a given effort and your body isn’t responding to the effort like it should.

Lastly, vitamins, homeopathy, and other gimmicks are only good for one thing - removing you from your money. Use your money for medicine that fights the symptoms like decongestants, cough drops and sometimes even cough medicine. Zicam and other products like that are snake oil and should be avoided.

Sleep, extra hydration, hygiene and a reduction in training intensity. Focus on that. And stay healthy. And of course see your Dr if you think any of this is a chronic condition.

To your second question - move on with your annual plan just as soon as you’re ready. You may need the chance of pace after spending a ton of time in the base phase. That could be the change you need to see a significant FTP increase. Your body likely needs some different stimulus at this point. Good luck and stay healthy!

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This podcast has some great information regarding cycling induced sickness and how to avoid/mitigate.

Cool. Lots of info, thanks. Seems I need to develop OCD levels of hand washing.

For reference, the one bout of food poisoning was, I think, from some refrozen ice cream served on a long haul flight. I don’t think I could have avoided that one. That made the last 6 hours of a 13 hour flight mighty uncomfortable.

Still, time to be a bit more conciencious about hand washing.

I get sick easily and having asthma, a simple cold could really deter my progress and have me off the bike for a week or so.
Having said that - I clorox the shit out of stuff at work. I try to avoid shaking hands with people, but whatever. Emergen-C every day, tea pretty much every day, sleep, eat all the veggies and fruit, and I wash my hands a lot.

Hi @greenmark, sorry to hear you’re struggling to avoid the lurgy!

I’m currently on my longest ever cold/flu free streak (touch wood), despite everyone in the office dropping like flies. Here are some of the recent changes I have made:

  • Much less booze (almost all of my previous illnesses came shortly after a heavy session - sometimes even the next morning)
  • Loads more fruit and veggies maybe 12-15+ portions a day - if you’re currently way below this then work your way up to that amount if it’s working for you, rather than going knee deep in kale from day one and hating your life. I found I actually started craving the healthy green stuff after a while of eating it regularly (there are some really interesting studies on gut microbes controlling cravings - Microbiome Study
  • Less processed food
  • A lot of hand cleaning in the office - this gets a bit out of control at times
  • Some immune boosting supplements and pro-biotics but I try not to go mad on these, and try to get as much of this from a variety of good whole foods as possible - ask your Doctor what he/she recommends
  • Resting up with a lot of fresh ginger tea as soon as I feel as though I’m on the cusp of a cold

Hope that helps and good luck!

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That only helps with flu, and that’s proper flu (if you can stand and aren’t wishing to die … it’s not the flu)

Like you I have gotten sick 4-5 times since November - one illness required a trip to the ER. Consequently, my FTP has been stagnant since November. Last month I was fed up and I went to my doc and she said:

I have a toddler and I’m a stay at home dad. So, I guess that would explain it…

Rather than surrender myself to being sick all the time though I went extreme and bought a bottle of spray hydrogen peroxide and doused every surface in my house (light switches, knobs, handles, remotes, my bikes, buttons, etc…) pretty much anything you touch at any point during the day. I also wash my hands a lot more and have tried to be cognizant of 1) how much I touch my face throughout the day (surprisingly it is a lot) and 2) knock it off…

Has it all helped? The jury is still out since I just adopted this approach a few weeks ago…

I have noticed a decrease in recovery time over the last few months though (from 10 days to 4-6 days now) and I attribute that to a fully revamped diet (increased fruit, veggie and water intake while drastically reducing fried foods, alcohol, and meat) and I take a daily multi vitamin with a mushroom immune booster.

Being sick all the time sucks. Having it decimate your training goals is downright depressing. Stick with it - it cannot go on forever (at least that’s what I keep telling myself) :sneezing_face::mask::face_with_head_bandage::face_with_thermometer::nauseated_face::face_with_symbols_over_mouth::face_with_symbols_over_mouth::face_with_symbols_over_mouth::face_with_symbols_over_mouth::face_with_symbols_over_mouth::face_with_symbols_over_mouth::face_with_symbols_over_mouth::face_with_symbols_over_mouth::face_with_symbols_over_mouth::face_with_symbols_over_mouth::face_with_symbols_over_mouth::face_with_symbols_over_mouth::face_with_symbols_over_mouth::face_with_symbols_over_mouth::face_with_symbols_over_mouth:

My husband has the immune system of a newborn. It doesn’t help that I work at a hospital and am the equivalent of Typhoid Mary because I never get sick and just carry it around giving it out to everyone else.

For him several things seem to have helped over the past couple years

  • Change in diet
  • Always bringing a jacket so he’s never cold
  • Changing out of wet, sweaty kits immediately after the ride is over
  • Improve sleep quality (which meant lowering caffeine) – we owned a coffee shop back in the day, and have a sweet espresso maker at home, which makes this one the hardest for either of us to overcome
  • And me…if I’m not on the trainer when I get home, then I shower immediately and change so I’m not dragging my hospital germs all over our home for him to swoop in on and incubate

I struggled with colds for years here is a few tips that help me stay healthy in the winter.

  1. Keep your training stress in check… make sure the immune system and body is okay with the training stress you’re dishing out and make sure the recovery is effective. In my experience the dry winter air combined with indoor riding makes me susceptible to getting sick. I use a humidifier by my bed

  2. Fat loss. I find it tricky to be in too much of a calorie deficit in the winter and seems to lower my immunity a lot.

  3. As others have said, wash hands and stay away from sick people.

  4. Sleep/recovery… For some reason I need more sleep during winter months. If I’m low on sleep and not recovered enough, doing my next workout puts my immune system at a disadvantage.

My 2 cents

Cold showers (really cold for 1-2 mins)? Seriously I’ve found that when I’m doing them religiously I never get sick even with 2 small germ factories (kids) running around the house. Every time I do get sick (Like the vicious cold I’m battling now) I look back and I wasn’t doing them right before I got sick.

Do they boost the immune system? Is it all in my head? I don’t know but I’ve heard before they help and anecdotally have worked for me

Oh, and yes, adequate rest, clean eating, listening to my body…:slight_smile:

This ^^^

and this ^^^^

Humidifier really helps when you have an upper respiratory illness, that’s reduced my recovery times a lot. Avoiding alcohol and excess caffeine as well.

I’ve suffered from chronic colds my entire life, stay diligent and all of these things will add up and help.