Man Flu and fitness

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    Hello All,

    As someone just starting to find their feet in the strength and conditioning industry I was hoping to pick the brains of all you more experienced coaches.

    Whilst I feel quite confident on rehab following injury, I’ve little experience about the process following illness.

    Here in the UK we are just coming into winter and at our rugby club we’re just starting to see the first colds and flues of winter. Players can often be off training for a week, 10 days, or a fortnight. They come back feeling very “weak” and are probably still slightly run-down.

    So how do we gauge them back to match fitness/strength ASAP, without running their immune systems down further?

    Do you guys at Canterbury, ACT and Bristol have plans, protocols or assessments on getting players back after short illnesses?



    Hi Bull, no set protocol at Canterbury we rely on the expertise of our doctor with clear and honest feedback from the player to ascertain in what state of readiness they are to work, erring on the side of not enough initially and then progressing from there, sorry to be unintentionally vague but that is how we approach the illness situations as they arise within our organisation, cheers, ash


    To be honest i just use my common sense and liase closely with the medical department as to the constraints of the player. Sometimes if they are a key player to the team they may not get the chance to fully recover before being thrust into the team and playing again.



    Avoidance …
    Overtraining, probably increases the chances of illness the greatest, specifically longer endurnace work or greater volumes due to parasympathetic activiation and suppressed immune response. This coupled with lowered bodyfat after a pre-season certainly leads to greater likelihood of colds & flu.

    The only way I know possible to avoid it is using an Omegawave, but they are incredibly expensive, time consuming and not many are willing to invest.

    Recovery …
    Rest is paramount, but some training specific to the type of illness is possible and certainly effective in encouraging the body to respond. Vitamin C, Zinc, Ginger, Garlic & Lemon are all helpful also.

    It may also be well worth looking at the timing of a cold and it’s appearance as you have some control over when it hits … if you know it’s coming (with OW or symptoms) you can speed up it’s arrival or delay it to just avoid major games. It is also possible to have a great performance just before it hits big time as the body, by mobilising defences and the CNS can allow greater energy expenditures … of course in the days post game the player is usually knocked for six. The Russians used these techniques in Olympic games with athletes.


    Thoughts on consitently loading up on anti-oxidants, multi- vits (high Potency) during off- season & pre- season phases?
    To help with prevention of reducing ‘immune system’ function.

    Feedback & thoughts?


    Yes, high doses of VitC can be looked at (a la Pauling) … also good gut gastrointestinal health is important.
    But Illness generally will only prosper in an unhealthy overtrained athlete, so rather than trying to prevent it occurring with supplementation, make sure the athlete has a good basic health and don’t overtrain would be my approach.


    With Olympic athletes we also find travel increases risk as does sleep deprivation and of course coming into contact with people who have cold and flu.

    In the first instance we simply try to improve hygiene by giving athletes a packet of alcohol hand swipes and instructing them to always wipe hands before eating or drinking! This is one of the most effective ways to reduce probability of infection. Most colds are picked up via our hands from otehrs and things other have touched and we introduce them into our oral system!
    Although airborne infection can and does occur it appears the lesser route – some evidence suggests prophylactic use of a nasal block can help – certainly hydration sprays for mouth and nose reduce risk on planes where these membranes dry out.

    We do use prophylactic dosing with vitamin C, echinacae and zinc – although there is still no definitive sceince acceptable proof that this works – it sure wont do any harm.
    We use probiotics as this does help maintain gut health.

    When athletes are under extra training stress or travel we encourage short naps to deal with sleep deprivation and load – this appears to help lessen risk of URTI (upper respiratory tract infection) and like the others we use medical staff assessment, players self assessment and conservative management. We also monitor closely for any secondary bacterial and start antibiotics as soon as we feel that has happened.


    Very good point about hygeine and healthy habits.
    One group you invariabily see it with are elite cyclists who will have this issue too as their immune function is weakened greater the longer the competition and training stress continues… it even comes down to simple things like stopping them from biting their nails!
    Also gut health is critical and there is more and more research coming on board to show it’s importance in everything from fat loss ot health.

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