By Chris Carmichael
As a coach, one of the most stressful parts of a major competition is keeping the athletes healthy on the way to the venue. Ironically, when athletes push themselves to the point where they’re in peak competitive fitness, they’re also teetering on the edge of coming down with an illness. It doesn’t take much for them to get a cold or a stomach bug that could completely ruin their chances for an Olympic medal or a World Championship. In many cases, the average traveler may actually have a stronger immune system than an elite athlete, but you can use the same protocols I use with elite athletes to avoid spending your vacation in bed with a cold.
Prevention is all about controlling what comes into contact with your eyes, nose, and mouth. I’m not saying you have to become a crazy person about it, but some basic steps can dramatically reduce your chances of becoming ill on the way to a fun or important destination.
Keep to yourself: It’s hard to do during the busy travel season, but do what you can to minimize your time in the most crowded areas of the terminals and waiting areas. Close quarters and communal property (handrails, etc.) make transferring germs much easier.
Wash Frequently: Besides air, nothing contacts your mouth, nose, and eyes more frequently than your hands. Be mindful to minimize this contact as much as you can, wash with soap and water before eating anything, and use hand sanitizer (minimum 60% alcohol) when soap and water aren’t available. You don’t have to be obsessive; dirty hands aren’t a problem until you need to use them in contact with your face or food.
Eat safe: The chances of getting food-borne illnesses in an American airport are very low, but I don’t take chances with elite athletes and it’s OK to be conservative as you head off on a highly-anticipated vacation. Bottled beverages and peelable fruits and vegetables are good choices, as are packaged foods that are designed to be stored and consumed at room temperature (nuts, pretzels, fig bars, etc.).
Support your immune system: Get a good night’s sleep before a travel day, stay hydrated, and try to minimize stress. The stronger your immune system, the more exposure to germs you can tolerate before something actually makes you ill.
Staying healthy factors into everything an elite athlete does. They use their own pen to sign autographs because they know where it’s been. And the fist-bump? It’s not just cool; it ensures that any transferred germs stay on the back of the hand. Some even travel with their own flatware or a stash of sealed, disposable flatware from take-out restaurants. Seem extreme? Ironman Kona only happens once a year, and the same is true of your Holiday Vacation.
Chris Carmichael’s company, Carmichael Training Systems, is the personal coaching resource trusted by thousands of the elite and amateur athletes and the Official Coaching and Camps Partner of Ironman. For information, visit www.trainright.com or call 866-355-0645.
Originally Published in "Wild Blue Yonder", the in-flight magazine of Frontier Airlines.