Overtraining and The Immune System

Whenever we get ill we all tend to say we have a bug or a virus, then we often run off to the doctor to try and get some kind of medicine, sound familiar?

If we genuinely do have a bug, then the doctor can help by prescribing some anti-biotics which can then kill off the foreign bacteria in our system, but it also will kill off some of the healthy naturally occurring bacteria too. So in turn we have a short term answer to a long term problem: “Why am I coming down with bugs or viruses?”

When you train you feel your muscles sore for a few days, the pain eases and you go back to the gym to cause more pain, this pain is a sign we presume to tell us;
1. we’ve trained hard and have broken down muscle tissue

2. the pain has gone so the muscle has recovered

How do we tell when our nervous system and immune system are fully recovered? What are the signs? Are there any signs? This is a hard for any athlete who has goals to accept because the signs only appear when we are starting to develop problems, lethargy, irritability, a weak immune system and increased likelihood of injury.

Don't overtrain, protect your immune system

This article is not going to tell you how many weeks to train for or how long your “programs” should last, its not going to tell you how long you need to take off. What we want to do is give you a greater understanding of viruses and possibly why we get them.

You can't rid your body of them. Period. The wonders of the human body include our immune systems. A virus attacks the body and the immune system starts to fight back, if the immune system can't control it with its normal powers, it creates specific forces to destroy the invaders. Once the body has defeated a virus, that exact same virus won't trouble us again, as long as the immune system stays strong and is running well. Many viruses like influenza have many strains and seem to have the ability to mutate through time, so they manage to pose us problems time and again.

When a Doctor prescribes medication for a virus, it really isn't to help you get over the virus. Usually an antibiotic will be prescribed, and that is for bacterial, not viral infection. The medication is to help prevent a secondary infection, which can creep in and wreak havoc while your immune system is concentrating itself on the virus.

Now, what would make a viral infection return? Well, any time the immune system is weaker than normal, the risk rises. What weakens the ability to function of the immune system? Stress, lack of sleep, illness, overtraining (yes, overtraining!), drug use/abuse, poor nutrition, etc. Any viral infection you had through your life to this point can come back if your immune system can't keep itself strong enough to keep the virus at bay.

This is why AIDS is such a killer: the body can't keep its immune system functioning properly, so re-infections run rampant. Chicken pox, they are finding can recur, but not as the exact same virus. It mutates enough so of one that the immune system's defences don't work well enough to keep it suppressed. It is much worse to have chicken pox when you are an adult than when you are a child. The Chicken Pox mutation is Shingles, a condition which not only makes your skin unbearably itchy but can affect the eyes and in turn eyesight too. If that wasn't enough bad news there can be various strains of each virus, Herpes virus not only causes herpes, but a variation is what causes cold sores. I hope I don't find out firsthand.

The relevance of these facts is we all must train as hard as we can to see the benefits we crave in our chosen field, but we must maintain adequate nutrition and rest enough to let our whole body recover, not just our muscles.

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