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It’s the time of year where we are all starting to think about race season – me in particular, having been out for the second half of last year with an injury! I call it the ‘pre-season effect’ – we’re all starting to dust down our bikes, finish off the last remnants of Christmas chocolates, and re-embark on our love of lane rage at the local pool.

In real terms, and jokes aside, this means training starts to get a “bit” more serious. Even for those of us who have been training all winter. That inkling of spring in the air is enough for us to go and book the next easyJet flight to warmer climes, and off we go, ready to absolutely kill ourselves with training volume we are really not accustomed to.

As I head off to my first training camp of the year in traditional Lanzarote style, closely followed by a second training camp in Fuerteventura, I am being massively vigilant about not getting ill. The dreaded cold virus can easily ruin an entire week (or more) of training, which is pretty frustrating if you have flown to warmer weather to do it!

And with ongoing ‘management’ issues of last year’s injury, I am also doing more stretching and foam rolling than I have done in the past five years put together. Believe me, it’s a lot of admin (faff).

Over my modest years in the sport, and certainly more recently, I have grown to learn a fair bit about illness and injury and how to reduce the chances of getting either, especially during key periods of training such as camps, race-specific blocks, or indeed, when heading into a race.

And by no means am I qualified to provide nutritional advice, but having worked with a number of nutritionists and a lot of trial and error, I’ve managed to glean a bit of info on what works to keep these gremlins at bay (most of the time, at least…!)

To prevent illness gremlins:

  • Take a probiotic supplement. The immune system starts in the gut, so I take these religiously throughout the year. Also great when you’re going abroad and exposed to different strains of bacteria. I use Healthspan Pro20
  • Hand sanitiser. EVERYWHERE. I use it religiously, especially when travelling and in public places.
  • AminoMan Immune Power. It’s all-natural and has powerful ingredients with antioxidants
  • Active Edge’s CherryActive is super high in antioxidants and has been recommended by all nutritionists I have worked with. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, I always take it after flights, when feeling a little bit run down, and after hard training sessions.
  • Drink more green tea. I’m a massive coffee fan but the healthy healthy stuff also has to make an appearance. It has antioxidative properties and
  • Eat more probiotic foods. Although I take a supplement, I still like to give my body a natural boost with products such as Kefir (great as a recovery drink), sauerkraut, miso and tempeh.
  • Wipe my cutlery. Ok, this sounds really anal but when I eat out in restaurants, I always wipe my cutlery with my napkin before I eat. People handle it, and it goes in your mouth! Why wouldn’t you!?
  • Fish oils. I am vegetarian but I do take an AminoMan high grade fish oil supplement as it has proven benefits for the immune system and anti-inflammatory properties
  • Befriend your scarf. Sometimes, on flights and on the tube, I have been known to pout a scarf over my mouth when there are a people around me sneezing and coughing!

To prevent injury gremlins:

  • I am foam rolling like a nutcase. New coach has me foam rolling for 15 minutes every day. It works, as hellish as it is! Most of my problems come from over tight muscles
  • As much as possible! One of those things we all neglect. Recently I feel like I spend half my life stretching…
  • See a biomechanics specialist. My injury came from a biomechanical issue (as many do) rather than overuse or stress, and my biomechanics guy (The Human Body Project) is a genius. We look at corrective work, dry needling and deep tissue, and realignment to ensure my body is functioning correctly. It’s a god send. I also do biomechanics anti-spasm exercises three times a day to release hypertension in problem areas
  • Massage. Enough said. I mean, why wouldn’t you!?
  • Chiropractice work. I am basically wonky in my pelvis, and very few people are actually 'straight'. Seeing my chiro regularly (Total Balance Clinic) means we can keep popping everything back into place, and my functional movement is better
  • Back the hell off if you need to! I learned the importance of downtime and recovery last year. A few skipped sessions or even a few weeks out isn’t actually going to negatively affect your performance if you keep things consistent. Whereas overtraining or not enough recovery will have a massive implication on your season
  • Anti-inflammatory foods. Certain foods have really good anti-inflammatory properties, such as berries, turmeric, ginger, chilli, peppers, green leafy vegetables etc., so I try to up these as much as I can
  • Proper fuelling. Yep, that definitely reduces injury risk because the body needs to function and repair itself optimally. That includes pre-, during, and post-sessions

Anyway, that’s what I do, and although it’s not an exhaustive list and I may be at risk of sounding like some kind of anal freak, it makes me feel good. And that’s half the battle, right!? Feel good, train better. Or something like that…

Happy gremlin-free training and here’s to a looming race season!