Hello Sunshine - time to boost vitamin D levels!


Yesterday was the first day in June and it was  a pretty good one. Hopefully it is a sign that summer will grace us with her presence now? Watching the long-term forecast on Country File today it looks like there will be opportunity to boost our vitamin D levels this week! I heard, recently, that is has been the coldest spring for 50 years and for runners that's not good because we probably need vitamin D more than the average Joe Bloggs.

Vitamin D is essential for bone health. As a runner you put a high load on your skeletal system and in many aspects this is good. Bones respond to stress by building themselves stronger to handle the demand but they need to be in good shape to start with and plenty of vitamin D is essential for bone mineralisation. Without this you could be at risk of fracturing your bones rather than strengthening them and so it is important that runners have good levels of vitamin D in order to optimise training, repair damage and prevent injury. It also increases the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines. When you do a hard training session you cause tiny mirco-tears in the muscles and have to put up with the inflammation that goes with them. Vitamin D helps combat this and so speeds your recovery between hard training sessions.

And where do we get that vitamin D from? SUNSHINE! In fact, it is known as the sunshine vitamin. It also occurs naturally in a few foods including fish and egg yolks but it is produced by the body in response to sunlight. Unfortunately for us, living in the northern hemisphere means that we are less likely to get enough of it from the sunlight and after the winter and spring that we have just endured we are even less likely to have enough of it at present.

There have also been studies showing that the VO2 max of runners exposed to ultra-violet light improved. This started me thinking about my own performances and I notice that many of my best times and best races were run at the end of the summer when I had enjoyed several months of training in daylight and spending more time outdoors generally. Not only that, but they occured after particularly good summers!

There is a down side however: over-exposure to sun is thought to cause skin cancer and so clearly it is wise to ensure that your time in the sun is safe and sensible. It would appear that a balancing act is required so that you get some sun on your face (or body) without getting sunburnt! Enjoy your time in the sun this week! Roll on a summer of good training and racing!