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Posted: July 6, 2016  :

(IAWR) Athletics: Flying Is Hazardous to Your Training

Many of us know that runners are more susceptible to catching colds after racing and running longer distances. Research has shown running longer than 90 minutes increases the risk of developing an Upper Respiratory Tract Infection (URTI). How to Prevent Colds and Illnesses after Racing and Running Long.

What other common activity increases your risk of illness? It's not going outside without a hat during winter (sorry, Mom).

It's flying.

Over the years, I've observed that runners are far more likely to get sick immediately after returning home from vacation. The destination climate seemed to have no effect. Whether the vacation was a holiday in the sun or ski vacation didn't matter. Upon returning home, many got sick, resulting in time off from training.

I started modifying the Personalized Training Plans I design for Coaching Clients to help combat this phenomenon. I began using the first week back from travelling to transition back to full training.

Recent research reported by Alex Hutchinson in the July/August issue of Canadian Running supports this conclusion.

Hutchinson writes that a nine year long study of elite Norwegian cross country skiers published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that you're five times more likely to get sick a day after flying. And risk of contracting an URTI or GI infection remains elevated for a week after flying.

The same study also found the risk of illness triples during the days following a race.

As a result, Norwegian athletes are now discouraged from flying the day after racing, thereby avoiding the highest risk day.

You may not be an elite athlete, but you can apply this knowledge to decrease your risk of sickness during training:

  • When returning home from flying, avoid the natural tendency to immediately hop back into serious training. Gradually transition back to training during your first week home.
  • If you're away for a week, spread one week of training over two weeks - your week away and your first week back home.
  • When flying to a destination race, arrive as many days as possible before the race.
  • Stay as long as you can before flying home.

Making these small modifications to your travel and training plans can make the difference between a successful training and racing season vs. arriving at the start line unprepared due to missing a chunk of training.

© 2016 Savvy Runner Inc.

Bennett Cohen and Gail Gould are the Founders and Presidents of the International Association of Women Runners. For access to resources to help you reach your goals for running and racing, visit

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