Can you actually stay healthy during the winter while training?
Don’t listen to me, I am currently fighting a cold (or the flu!), drinking hot lavender chamomile tea and laughing at the irony of writing this story on how to stay healthy during winter training. I’m the opposite of healthy at the moment and have been beyond frustrated with this endless ‘Is it a cold or a flu’ dance I always seem to play during this time of year. It was 6 degrees last week in New York City, and within a few days it went up to 65 degrees. Nearly everyone is coughing, sniffling, sneezing or blowing their noses and spreading germs.
However, on the flip side, over decades of training for international swim competitions — including the Olympic Games — while sick during the winter months, I’ve picked up a handful of useful tips to combat annoying illnesses that linger. Some tidbits are basic common knowledge that our grandmas told us when we were just kids, while others are a more extreme version of a detox that simply helps flush out the sickness for good. Mix these tools with some extra sleep and chicken noodle soup and you are good to go.
1) Drink the right kind of tea
Drink lemon + ginger + honey tea to soothe your sore throat. First of all, lemons are known for their endless health benefits including boosting digestion, high level of vitamin C and reducing blood sugar levels. Chop up some Ginger root in hot water to reduce inflammation and nausea plus this extra spice has been used for centuries to fight the flu and cold viruses. Another benefit is that ginger helps with menstrual cramps, something that often sets me back in training. Add in some honey to soothe your sore throat while calming inflammation with its antioxidant values.
2) Blow off some steam
Jump into a steam room for 20-30 minutes and immediately after, take a cold shower to improve circulation, boost immune system and relax the nervous system. Mix it up with a hot shower to relieve congestion and soothe headaches. Both cold and hot showers have therapeutic qualities, so pick your poison.
3) Get Salty
Gargle with warm salt water to break up mucus. Mix a half teaspoon of salt with 8 oz. of warm water. Make sure the water isn’t boiling, as you don’t want to burn your throat. You don’t need to swallow the mixture as that could upset your stomach; gargling will be efficient enough to fight the bacteria.
4) Get Salty – Part Two
Take a hot epson salt bath with lavender or eucalyptus oils to relax and rest your nervous system. Epson salts are full of magnesium which helps promote restful sleep because magnesium produces melatonin and essentially reduces stress (win-win). Also, it’s important to note that most people are deficient in magnesium, so an epson salt bath will help give you the minerals you need to get back into top form. The lavender and eucalyptus oils will help open up a blocked nose and also helps clear cold sores.
5) Enjoy some Comfort Food
Eat chicken noodle soup or ramen to nourish your body and give you the comfort and nutrition you need to rest and fight off the illness. I personally love eating spicy ramen when I am sick to help clear my nasal congestion. Comfort food is real in that it helps heal a low immune system. In addition, the booth from both the chicken noodle soup and the ramen helps with hydration levels.
Olympic medalist swimmer Kimberley Vandenberg is a member of the WSF Digital Contributor Team.