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Depending on certain facets of athletes' exercise regimens, these individuals may be susceptible to a compromised immune system. Specifically, this applies to athletes who have a heavy competition schedule, don't dedicate enough time to recovery or are training at high intensity for prolonged periods of time. A study published in the journal Immunology and Cell Biology revealed the effects of overtraining syndrome, a condition that occurs as a result of excessive exercise. A neuroendocrine disorder, overtraining syndrome correlates with poor athletic performance, persistent fatigue, disturbed sleep and frequent illness.
The researchers noted that the deficient immune system is a result of the excessive exercise rather than the side effects of overtraining syndrome. Immune deficiency as a consequence of high-intensity training occurs from a decrease in neutrophil function and number of natural killer cells, a type of white blood cell critical to the immune system's function. As a result, athletes with this condition may be prone to more prevalent or severe illnesses.
The physiological changes that occur while exercising aren't the only factors contributing to a potentially deficient immune system. Though working out can reduce anxiety, certain athletes are under levels of stress that may not be subdued with physical activity. Take college athletes, for instance. Balancing a full-time school workload with frequent practices and independent training can be a difficult mental and physical burden to carry. The resulting stress can play a significant role in their overall well-being.
A meta-analytic study of literature discussing the link between physiological stress and the human immune system discovered some common patterns that shed more light on the subject. Researchers reviewed more than 300 empirical studies on the topic. They found that stress, no matter how long the duration, hinders the entire immune system. Whether an athlete experiences anxiety about an upcoming game or worries about his or her performance throughout an entire season, the body's main defense mechanism is weakened.
Research published in the Journal of Sport Sciences not only corroborated the findings that strenuous exercise can depress immune cell function, but it also offered athletes methods to combat this deficiency. Specifically, researchers advised individuals who engage in intense aerobic activity to supplement their diets with iron, zinc and vitamins A, E, B6 and B12. Chicken, beans and spinach are all excellent sources for these nutrients.
"Strenuous exercise can depress immune cell function."
Furthermore, the study explained that when athletes exercise in a carbohydrate-depleted state, they are more likely to experience the physiological symptoms of stress and diminish their immune functionality. As such, it's crucial for athletes to incorporate enough carbohydrates into their diets.
Massage may also help boost athletes' health and lower stress levels. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that a single massage could produce measurable benefits for the immune system. Participants included 53 healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 45. One group, composed of 29 adults, received a 45-minute Swedish massage, while the other group underwent a light touch control condition for the same duration. Researchers took blood samples from participants before the massage and light touch control condition, and then at regular intervals throughout the hour following the treatment. The results demonstrated that those who received a Swedish massage experienced a decrease in arginine vasopressin and cortisol, both of which can prevent the immune system from functioning optimally.
Though participants of this study received a professional massage, you may be able to recreate the same benefits with your own personal massager. Using this tool before and after a workout gives you the best benefits of massage.
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Endurance athletes who take part in marathons, triathlons or century bike rides typically have fitness goals of strength and stamina. Your body needs to be strong enough to carry you long distances, and it needs to have the proper training in order to function for extended periods of time.
Before a race it’s crucial to plan a training program to prepare, and most of this will include running or cycling through intervals of faster and slower speeds, up and down hills and longer and shorter distances. It should also include cross training with strength exercises and core workouts such as Pilates for total body training.
Another factor that should be included in a pre-race program is athletic recovery and stretching. Whether you’re a new or seasoned endurance athlete, you’ll be putting your body through more intense challenges, which is sure to leave you with sore muscles from time to time, but it can also increase your risk of injury. To prevent getting hurt and having a setback, you need to take the proper precautions, which include stretching and massage.
A century bike ride will take you 100 miles, and it will certainly test your mental and physical prowess. This may seem like a lofty goal, but it’s certainly an achievable one that many endurance cyclists aspire to complete.
Being able to bike 100 miles requires serious commitment, dedication, planning and training. Once you decide to take part in a century ride, you need to starting working at least eight weeks beforehand to prepare your mind and body for the challenge ahead. Your training program should consist of long and short rides as well as intervals of different speeds, resistance levels, terrain and hills. It’s also a good idea to cross training with weight lifting to strengthen your muscles and exercises such as Pilates that provide stretching and improve posture.
Another key component is nutrition. Your body won’t be able to last long if it is not being fueled properly. Even slight dehydration can completely zap your energy levels and cause sore musclesand cramps. If this does happen, giving your muscles a massage can help. Additionally, eating the right amount of carbohydrates and fats is needed to fuel your muscles and provide you with the nutrients to keep you going mile after mile. You’ll certainly want to pack snacks to stop and eat during your ride to replenish fuel sources, curb hunger pangs and boost energy. Remember not to pack any foods that are too heavy or hard to transport. A muffin may sound delicious, but it can be messy to eat. Also, be sure not to try any new foods in case it affects your stomach negatively and you have to stop mid-race.
Here are some tasty, helpful snack options to pack for your century ride:
Whether you’re preparing for a cycling race, training for a triathlon or simply appreciate the exhilarating cardio workout you get from riding, your body (the lower half in particular) is certainly being challenged.
Most of your focus will be on the meat of your training – developing programs for each ride to incorporate different terrain, speeds, hills and other aspects of riding itself. But it’s also important to remember that your training doesn’t stop once your session ends. In fact, time spent after you hop off your bike is just as important as time spent on the saddle. Cooling down and taking part in athletic recovery reduces your risk of sore muscles and injuries, which can sideline you and set you back in your schedule. This is especially problematic if you are on a deadline for a race.
After each bike ride you should be taking the time to stretch out your muscles and allow your mind and body to return to their resting states. It’s also useful to incorporate self massage into your routine each week, especially after an intense ride. Massage will help loosen up muscles even further, which is important so you don’t create any imbalances.
There are several key muscles you should focus your massager on after a bike ride: