Another illness is on the horizon for the winter months – influenza. Though we are living in a brave new world of disease prevention awareness, we are still facing down the same yearly flu season that we have in the past. Flu is something that we should be thinking about too.
It’s so simple to spread illnesses without realizing it, because as we know now you can be a carrier without showing symptoms yourself. That goes for both the flu and of course for COVID. You can take preventative steps to keep the flu from spreading, because we don’t want to strain our healthcare system any more than it is. This is a real concern for all of us in the next few months.
Sport and illness
We know that exercise builds the immune system, and that’s a wonderful thing. There is a compelling case to be made for how exercise gives our bodies a defense against potential illness. There are a huge variety of ways that physical activity boosts the immune system. We are better able to ward off all kinds of germs when we’re participating in healthy exercises. One of the things you can do to support yourself this winter, through flu season, is to stay active!
Fencing, especially when we are training intensely, is cardio exercise. When it’s done regularly, it’s part of a long term strategy to stay healthy. Lack of exercise is directly tied to the onset of chronic illnesses, and chronic illnesses are directly tied to vulnerability to things like the flu. We aren’t experts of course, but the science is clear on this. Regular exercise can be part of our defense against illness. A fun part!
It’s not that simple though. Participating regularly in fencing is wonderful for your body, but it’s not a cure all. Staying active will help, but that doesn’t mean that you are safe and can cut corners in other areas. Find your groove with your precautions and stick with them.
Let me preface this next information with this – the average fencer training at a local club is not an elite athlete. It is interesting to note that we know that there is a window of increased vulnerability following strenuous exercise. This is something that is still being studied, but there are scientific studies on marathon runners in particular. In the long run, these athletes have a higher resistance to illness, but in the short term they have a small period where they need to be extra vigilant. For the average fencer, this is not a factor. Moderate exercise a few times a week doesn’t have negative immune effects. Still, it’s interesting information that might be important for those fencers who do go on to become elite!
Aren’t we taking enough precautions already with COVID? What more can we possibly do?
Compared to a year ago, we are all obviously much more aware about the spread of illness. It seems to consume all that we think about sometimes, and our lives have been turned upside down because of it. It’s important that we don’t get overwhelmed with all of this, and that is definitely not the goal that we have for this blog.
The flu is not the same as COVID. They are two totally different illnesses, though they are both upper respiratory diseases. The CDC says that coronavirus seems to spread more easily than the flu virus. COVID also shows symptoms later than the flu does. The biggest thing we’re expecting is that the flu and COVID will be confused because they are similar. The positive thing is that the precautions we are used to for COVID can also help prevent the flu.
With all that in mind, let’s rethink our precautions regarding the flu.
- Get the flu shot. The biggest step in prevention of the flu is to get the flu shot. Of course this does not guarantee that you will not get the flu, as there are many different strains, but it is the best tool that we have during the flu season. Talk to your doctor, and get the flu vaccine!
- Watch for symptoms and stay home. If you have any symptoms – stay home! Masking and social distancing that we are all familiar with are great tools, but if you have symptoms then stay home from your fencing club! (and everywhere else). Online lessons are still an option if you feel up to it.
- Keep your fencing gear clean. When you are training, that fencing gear is holding onto germs. It’s important to wash your fencing gear regularly to prevent this.
- Masking and social distancing. We all know the importance of masking and social distancing for COVID, but for the flu we now have a new reason to be vigilant. Over these many months we have become in some ways complacent, and now it is time to rethink and bring back that seriousness. Fencing competitions are beginning again in some places, and in person classes are going on as well. Think back to your precautions this flu season and don’t budge on them, even if others are not doing the same.
- Nutrition. It is more important than ever that you take good care of your nutrition. This means eating fruits and vegetables, staying away from the junk food, and importantly staying hydrated. For athletes, it is a must do. We know that the pandemic has been hard and it is easy to reach for that rush of junk food. Try to resist the temptation! It is a short term gain in feeling high from the sugar and fat, but it is a long term loss all around.
- Sleep. Getting good rest is important for building the immune system and keeping your body as ready as possible. The top athletes in the world get a good night’s rest, and so should you.
- Practice self care. Stress is a big factor for compromising the immune system. We know that quarantine is stressful, but taking care of yourself and reducing your stress is not only for you, it’s for everyone! It is not a selfish act to reduce your stress level. If that means taking things off your plate or connecting more with your support crew, then do so. This is a wonderful time to connect back with coaches and fellow fencers, socially distanced and safely. Connection is self care. Rest is self care. Continuing your passions like fencing is also self care.
The buzz word for this flu season is “twindemic.” It is a lot to process and a lot for us to think about in addition to the pandemic we are already facing. We find that it’s best to focus on what we can do, how we can be proactive, because then we are taking back some control.
You cannot guarantee that you will not get the flu. What you can guarantee is that you will protect yourself, your family, and your fellow fencers as best as you can. We are all doing our part right now.