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Athlete Diary: Staying Healthy
By:  Karl Saidla   (2007/04/23)


Like any cross-country ski racer, it is has always been a goal of mine to avoid sickness. Sometimes I have been relatively illness free. Other times I have been bedridden several times in a season. This year, however, is the first year I can remember where I managed to make it pretty much a whole year without catching anything. Given how long it has taken me to achieve this goal (some 18 seasons of racing or so) I thought it might be worthwhile explaining what factors, as far as I can tell, made this possible:


  1. Training: While I know that one should avoid phrasing things negatively, I think what I did right in this department had a lot do with things I did NOT do. I did not try to train significantly more than I have before. I did not try to do more intensity than I had before. I did not try to race more than normal. I did not try to travel more than normal. Some might argue that my approach was a bit conservative. On the other hand, few serious racers seem willing to “risk” a conservative approach. On that basis, one could say I was a real dare-devil!

  2. Sleep: I made a conscious effort to get about 9hrs of sleep/night. I am not claiming that this always happened. In fact, I would say that it seldom did. On the other hand, I usually managed more than 8hrs of sleep a night, which is more than I would have if that had been the target. This part of the strategy took a lot of discipline (at least it seemed that way from my perspective. I suppose if you were a monk or something this kind of thing would be nothing more than routine).

    I can’t say that I ever really got used to it either. I still feel like staying up late to watch spaghetti westerns when it is time for bed. That being said, I felt better when I was getting more sleep so I will do what I can to keep going with this strategy in the future. Besides, when you get too sleepy you are likely to miss out on some of the subtleties of Clint Eastwood's acting. Better watch him when you are fully alert.

  3. Food: I didn’t follow any particular regime, but I did my best to make sure that I always had a plan for eating balanced meals. Mainly, this meant planning ahead with respect to grocery shopping, making lunches, buying food for trips etc. It also meant having the discipline to keep planning through the whole year. I also ate a carrott almost every day with my lunch. Maybe that is the magic food item that wards off all illness. Oh yeah, green peppers. I love green peppers. I also like Boreale Blonde. It was one of these things that kept me healthy, I'm sure.

  4. Other: I washed my hands often. I didn’t hang around cold places in wet clothing. I did my best not to underdress for training or any outside activity. Luck was also a factor. Seeing as I'm not Irish, I don't have any explanation for that. Sometimes people get sick even when, at least for the most part, they are doing the right things to avoid it. With sickness, all you can really expect is to set things up in such a way that you minimize your chances of picking up something. Totally eliminating would seem to be impossible, short of isolating yourself in some kind of medical chamber. That wouldn’t really seem effective for other types of training, or life in general.

Obviously, having a goal like this is not as exciting as goals like winning races and qualifying for teams, or rollerskiing around Gatineau Park with no clothes on. I guess staying healthy is one of those “sub-goals” in that it does not represent an end so much as a means.

Interesting Reading. . .
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