by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner
Take simple steps now to keep you on track for your fittest winter ever …
Often, workouts are inspired by the approach of warm weather and its threat of bathing suits. The bulky coats and chunky scarves of winter don’t have the same motivating factor. Who hasn’t hidden an extra slice of pizza or serving of dessert underneath a baggy sweater or sweat pants?
Dark skies may not invite us to go outside after dinner. And, the damp chill of fall never feels good on muscles and joints, regardless of how strong we’ve worked them. Take this opportunity to discover a new fitness routine at the Center. Reacquaint yourself with all that’s offered in an atmosphere that’s always bright.
Tour the facility with the eyes of a new member and find something unique to make your own. New connections–with people, classes, seminars, personal trainers, and fitness instructors– spark a fresh approach to your fitness journey. This keeps you committed to exercise, even on days you’d rather share with the Seinfeld friends in your living room. Take advantage of your Center membership benefits. Keep that “winter coat” from forming on your middle with year-round opportunities to stay fit and healthy.
Autumn is also a great time to rejuvenate outdoors. Use this natural segue into winter months to prepare your mind and body. Soak up the golden colors radiating from the sun and changing leaves. Be mindful of the changes taking place and create your own. While enjoying the crisp air, consider your health goals for the next several months.
Determine how to stay on track with your fitness routine in a season that promotes Halloween candy and hot pumpkin lattes. (Also, we generally tend to eat more in chillier weather.) It might be a new Group Fitness class or training for a winter sport. If trying a new sport, consult with a personal trainer about an exercise program to prepare you.
Choose several fun activities to propel you along. Indulge in a water workout at the Center’s pool, a luxury when temperatures are frigid outside and backyard pools are hibernating. Take a proactive approach so you’re ready for those winter excuses– too busy (holidays), too tired (post-holidays), too sick (flu season), too cold outside (wimpy, wimpy). They linger on everyone’s lips in the months ahead. Be armed with rut-busters to keep you fit. The zest of a great workout delivers a powerful remedy against upcoming cabin fever.
Let this time be a catalyst for changes of your own. How are you prompted to build a better body, a stronger mind, and a more peaceful spirit? The colder months lend themselves to introspection. Burn off daily stresses and calories with a healthy fatigue resulting from a good workout.
Once the body is calm, soothe the mind with meditation. It needn’t be a heavy process of chants and uncomfortable positioning. Simply sit and be still. Hear what your thoughts are telling you and set your mind free. This might be the ideal time to begin a yoga practice.
Dancing before your eyes are tools for one of the season’s great workouts. Those colorful leaves need to be gathered and collected. Follow these tips to capitalize on the exercise involved and minimize the injury.
- Layer clothing. As the temperature decreases, it becomes more difficult to warm up your muscles. Layered clothing helps muscles remain warm. When your internal temperature rises, the layers are easy to shed.
- Tighten your core when raking. This allows you to generate more force through your movement, putting less strain on arms, shoulders, and back. Not doing so keeps the internal organs and spine unprotected as you perform the rigorous movements of raking. Consider adding core work to your regular fitness session. It can help you rake more easily and efficiently– and (dare we say it) shovel snow. Check with a personal trainer or Pilates instructor for tips.
- Bend the knees. Locked knees put more strain on your lower back.
- Become ambidextrous. Don’t favor one side when raking. Be sure to switch hand placement on the rake often.
- Rest. As much as we may want to finish this chore quickly, be sure to rest when tired. You may notice your heart rate increase as if you were on the Exercise Floor. Depending on how long you rake continuously, it can become an endurance activity. Listen to your body and respond to its limitations.
- Hydrate. Thirst isn’t as recognizable as during the hot months of summer. However, staying hydrated is just as important. Adequate water intake reduces the risk of frostbite. It helps regulate body temperature, which is essential as we approach this year’s round of blizzards. When exercising, sip four to eight ounces of fluid every 20 minutes. Although you may crave a hot chocolate or mulled cider, stick to clear, decaffeinated beverages. Add decaf tea for variety.
Warm Up and Cool Down
Prep your body for any physical activity, including a workout. A warm-up is especially important in cold weather. Experts recommend doubling the time spent on this phase of your fitness routine once the temps drop. Going into a workout with muscles and joints stiff from the cold easily leads to pulls and strains.
Increase your heart rate by marching in place, circling arms, and gently twisting the waist. Then, begin stretches on an already warmed body. Some mistakenly go into stretching cold. This can lead to pulls as you tug and stretch at muscles that haven’t been warmed yet. We tend to hold ourselves stiff in the cold weather. Let your body acclimate and loosen with a proper warm-up.
A cool-down is also important. Rushing into the cold air after a sweat session can cause strains, including on the heart (a muscle never to be neglected). Perspiration-soaked clothing against the body exacerbates the situation.
Need a Little More Inspiration?
Although building your beach body isn’t a priority this time of year, building your immune system is essential. Colds and flu abound, but regular exercisers report fewer of them.
According to a study conducted at the University of South Carolina, those most physically active on a daily basis were 20 to 30 percent less likely to develop colds than their inactive counterparts. The physical activity included exercise, sports performance, and physical chores like snow shoveling. Working out also helps manage stress and anxiety, two culprits that lead to a weakened immune system. These factors are more inspiring than the distant smell of sunscreen.
Start now with your own transformation. By winter, a fresh routine will be established yet still echo with newness. You’ll be coasting down the end of the learning curve, enjoying the thrill of a renewed commitment to your health.
“Make This Your Fittest Winter Ever,” by Nicole Maier at www.medhelp.org.