Eleanor Jones offers some tips and tricks to help you stay healthy throughout the winter

It’s that time of year when everyone seems to have a cough or a sniffle and usually just when you’re trying to put in your biggest block of training.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who thinks their work colleagues should have a day off rather than persevere and spread their germs around the office!

Social recluse?

Germs can spread easily in a crowd, so give Christmas shopping a wide berth (it’s what the internet was created for) – avoid Christmas parties and public transport when you’re feeling low … sorry, but that’s the way it is!


Any undue stress from work or family as well as a hard training week leaves us open to infection, so to avoid illness you need to ensure that you manage that stress.

Make sure you spend time with your friends and family, switch off from work and fully recover from your training sessions. Laughter is also good for you, if you believe the rumours!


Sharing water bottles or eating utensils, smelly (public) towels and open wounds are all no go areas. Use a tissue to sneeze or cough and always wash your hands.

Infections are frequently transmitted from your hands to your face so stop touching your face and use alcohol hand gel.

Fuelling sessions

During exercise, our delicate nasal and oral membranes may be more susceptible to attack from bugs as they dry out. To keep it impenetrable, keep well hydrated before, during and after your sessions. Secondly, carbohydrate intake lowers the stress response to training (see ‘Relax!’).

Add pre-exercise snacks, gels and drinks to your session.

Dietary habits

Dieting and excluding food groups may leave you deficient in one or more nutrient and susceptible to infection – aim for a balanced diet (forget 5-a-day, aim for 8 or 9!) that includes all the food groups (starches, fats, meat and alternatives, dairy, fruit and vegetables).

Listen to your body

Failure to listen to the warning signs of your body may mean one day to weeks laid up in bed, instead of just missing one or two training runs. If your body says that enough is enough, then rest and don’t push!

» Eleanor Jones is senior sport scientist at the University of Birmingham and a BASES-accredited sport scientist with an IOC Diploma in Sports Nutrition

» This article was first published on the old Athletics Weekly website in December 2013