Goal-setting for the tri season, part 3: tips for avoiding illness

Credit: Harry Howe/Allsport
Triathlon coach JulieAnne White concludes her series on goal-setting for the upcoming tri season with a discussion of illness, and the steps she takes to stay healthy.

(Did you miss part 1 or part 2 of this series?)


This can feel like the most insidious of all the things that can keep you from your goal, because theres nothing you can do when youre sick.

You cant say, "Well, at least I can swim," or, "All this paperwork will make me miss my bike ride, but Ill get in a short run this afternoon instead."

No, when youre sick, you cant do a thing. The best thing you can do is just not get sick to start with. There really are things you can do in that regard.

As for me, I almost never get colds or flu (knock on wood). Im pretty severe in how I go about my day, however; perhaps more than you are.

Dont ask me about TV shows that air after 9 p.m., because Im usually in bed by that time. I havent seen 11 p.m. in many years. Im adamant about getting my sleep.

I dont drink at all, except water, which I drink a lot of. Im very healthy in my eating habits. I do take a daily regime of vitamins, minerals and other immune-boosting supplements. I dont eat out much. When I do eat out, though, heres something that you might think is silly: When we eat out, it is frequently at salad bars, and I have a habit of holding the ladles with a napkin, instead of with my bare skin. While that might seem excessive, I can only tell you what works for me.

I dont spend a lot of time in crowded places. I do spend a fair amount time outdoors in clean, fresh air. I dont shop in malls. I stay off airplanes as much as I can, since I am not competing all over the world now. In fact, I know a former pro triathlete a very successful one who actually flew wearing a surgeons mask during the flight (airplanes are germ incubators). It may have looked funny, but because he was from New Zealand he almost always had to take a long flight to get to important races, and he rarely got sick.

I keep my surroundings very clean and disinfected. I dont sit around in sweaty workout clothes. In other words, I take a little extra care of myself to make sure I dont get sick.

I eliminate as much as possible all the unnecessary stressors in my life I view stress, lack of rest, and poor diet as the three evils that allow illnesses to take hold.

I surround myself with positive individuals, and I get regular therapies such as massage, chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture.

If you do think youre getting sick, there is a school of thought to which I belong that says you can do some things right in the beginning to stave off a long infection. If I get a scratchy throat or a sniffle, I immediately start taking echinacea and drink a lot of fluids. I almost never take antibiotics. Its just about always the case that taking care of myself early seems to help me rid myself of whatevers trying to invade.

One last thing. If you do catch a bug, its not the end of the world. You lose a week or two. Yes, it would be better to be outside training than indoors drinking chicken soup. But if you take care of yourself, this wont happen to you very often, and a couple of weeks wont set you back much at all.

JulieAnne personally coaches between 12 and 15 athletes per year over the Internet. She is also the founder of Slowtwitch Animal Activists. Her coaching program and more of her articles can be found at Slowtwitch.com.

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