Who woulda thought? Right? If we breath better, we perform better. Whoda thunk?
For years I’ve struggled with asthma, congestion, sinus issues, runny nose, you name it, and those annoyances and health issues permeated into my workouts, bike rides and every day life. There’s nothing worse than trying to manage a throat full of phlegm while on a ride. Do you have to blow your nose, or are you crusting up the fleecy part of your gloves? Are you sniffling? Trying to clear your sinuses during an intense part of your ride? Are your ears plugged causing disorientation and discomfort? If yes, maybe I can help.
A big factor that grounds cyclists every year is sickness. While we’re riding, not only are we breathing in and out toxins from the road, car exhaust, dust, pollen, etc, we’re doing so at a rapid rate. Were breathing hard destroying the protective lining in our membranes, causing irritation and soreness. This soreness is caused by the abrasive factors in the air, air itself and it’s contaminants. Your lungs and sinuses and throat are rubbed raw leaving you vulnerable to disease and infection. Like an open wound, you are unprotected to airborne viruses. While cycling has its health advantages, this is one significant drawback.
How do you protect yourself?
One of the solutions that I’ve discovered that seems to be often overlooked, or, under prioritized, is routine sinus cleansing. Like brushing your teeth, keeping your sinuses clean and free of debris can make a big difference to your health. Not only does good sinus hygiene improve your chances at fighting infection, it also helps improve breathing allowing you to suck in more air comfortably without the constant need to cough or sniffle.
There are several mechanisms to aiding with good nasal hygene including the Nettie Pot, the NeilMed Sinus Rinse and the Navage system. I’ve used them all. Here’s my take.
The Nettie Pot
How it works: You fill the pot with warm salty water. The spout of the pot goes in one nostril. As your head and the pot are tipped, gravity draws the fluid into one nostril and drains out the other.
Advantages: Gentle. It’s a great way for beginners who are afraid of putting water up their nose start. This method gently rinses inside your nose. Good for cleaning the immediate area.
Disadvantages: It’s not a thorough cleansing. If your nose is stuffed, most of the fluid runs down the back of your throat or simply doesn’t move at all. Does not work to clear ears. A lot of congestion will remain after several rinses.
The NeilMed Sinus Rinse
How it works: You fill a bottle with warm salty water. The tip of the bottle is placed in one nostril. Upon squeezing it, a stream of water will shoot up and into the sinuses.
Advantages: Another good method for beginners, you can regulate how fast or slow you want the water to squirt up. This system allows you to be more aggressive with the washing. Squeeze harder and the stream will flow very aggressively into your sinuses clearing out sinus debris.
Disadvantages: Similar to the Nettie pot, if your sinuses are plugged, you don’t get much movement from one side to the other. Similarly, the drainage often goes down the back of your throat especially if you’re plugged. Multiple treatments, however, are more effective at clearing your passages. Works better than the Nettie pot at clearing plugged ears, but, not very reliable.
The Navage system
How it works: This is a mechanical system that uses batteries. There are two fluid reservoirs, one for the clean water, the other for the dirty water. There are two cushioned ends that fit into both nostrils at the same time. You fill the clean reservoir with warm salty water from a pre-mixed salt pod, place the cushions into both nostrils, depress the power button half way. The device suctions out the air in your sinuses creating a closed system. Depressing the button fully and the fluid runs through your sinuses and the dirty water is discharged into the lower reservoir.
Advantages: This has been the most effective treatment for me. Since the suction creates a closed system, there is virtually no drainage into the back of the throat. The entire sinus cavity is flushed with water and drainage is near perfect after only one treatment. This has prevented my ears from being plugged 100% of the time. I haven’t encountered a problem yet. Even if the sinuses are plugged, the system moves water through with little or no drainage into the throat. Has improved overall breathing and minimizes the need to blow my nose during an intense workout.
Disadvantages: It’s a little uncomfortable at first. The suction is a bit unnerving, but, you’ll get used to it. The system includes salt pods which you place on top of the clean reservoir. You cannot use the device unless you have a fresh salt pod installed. Once that salt pod is used, you cannot use it again until you place a new salt pod into it. This marketing system that requires you to buy salt pods from the manufacturer is disappointing. But, there is a work around.