There are a number of factors involved in performing at your “peak” for the first competitive event of the season. For a number of cyclist, competing in the Sea Otter Classic is their first chance to show and test their off-season training. To be in top physical shape there are several things to consider, but warding off illness through the winter months should be at the top of the list.
The human body has 2 lines of defense to ward off bacteria and viruses. The first is the innate immune system which includes a variety of physical barriers to infection. The skin, saliva, mucous, and membranes of the nasal passages, lungs and gut all help reduce the bacteria and viruses that are able to invade the body. The second is the adaptive immune system, which is made up of cells that have a "memory" for foreign invaders. Whenever we get sick or receive a vaccination, these cells destroy the invaders and infected cells and in the process of doing so, develop a memory for the invading germs. The next time a similar infection occurs, the cells can respond more rapidly, lessening the chances of a full-blown illness.
There is some scientific evidence that indicates athletes may experience an increased risk of infection within the first several hours after exercise. This is the time when the hunting and killing abilities of the cells are at their weakest.
Here are some practical tips to help reduce the risk of illness:
Stay healthy and see you in April at the 20th Anniversary of the Sea Otter Classic!