Winter-Proofing Your Diet And Exercise

Winter-exerciseGrass goes dormant in winter – do you?

We’ve all been there. The alarm sounds at 6am, you press snooze … and snooze … and before you know it, the 60-minute workout you’d promised yourself the night before is out the window.

As winter sets in, early-morning workouts can seem sadistic. Those cooling beads of sweat that ran down our hot cheeks during the summer are replaced with goose bumps and chattering teeth and the reassuring warmth of our doonas is given priority over our exercise regimes. Diets suffer the same fate – the light chicken salad and tall ice-cold water that made us salivate on hot summer days is replaced by cravings for warm, creamy hot chocolates and quick and easy pastas laden with a whole cow’s-worth of cream.

On average, most Australians weight an extra 2.8 kilograms during the winter and studies have shown a considerable 82 per cent of us feel this weight gain contributes immensely to a decrease in confidence, sociability and general wellbeing. In response to this self-esteem crash, many rely on ‘comfort foods’ for warmth and reassurance – a self-perpetuating cycle.

Making friends with winter this year allows you to change your diet, exercise and attitude to suit the season.


The diet factor: another serve of warm mashed potato?

There’s no doubting the strong correlation between our attitudes towards diet and our attitudes towards exercise; like love and marriage, when motivation is lacking for one, it’s only downhill for the other.

In an attempt to keep our bodies warm and insulated, both adults and children remain far more sedentary during the cooler months. The release of ‘natural high’ endorphins which occurs both during and after exercise is significantly reduced, leading many of us to turn to food, explaining chocolate’s ability to enhance our endorphin release in order to justify our sometimes over-consumption.

Although the thought of preparing a nutritious meal after a hard day’s work makes most of us cringe, many winter meals, such as soups, casseroles and curries, can be left unattended – giving you time to change into something cosier. Throw in a little chilli to get your metabolism moving!

A few cold-night suggestions include:-
-Minestrone or vegetable-based soups (meat, or beans for vegetarians, can be added to substantiate the soup)
-Curries (make sure your meat cuts are lean with any excess fat removed)
-Pastas (preferably wholemeal, prepared with tomato-based sauces, minimising your use of cream or bacon)
-Stir-fries (prepared using lean meats and served with brown rice)
-Shepard’s Pie (prepared with skim milk and limited butter).

A generous serve of vegetables, lean meat, and low-GI carbohydrates, such as wholegrain rice, breads, pastas and beans, are highly nutritious and wholesome options that will benefit both your insides and out this winter!


Get moving

Aerobic-exerciseExcuses; we’re all victims of them. Whether it was raining or our muscles were still recovering from the previous workout, winter offers more than enough reasons to postpone exercise, and by the end of the season those excuses have accumulated around our hips, thighs and waist lines.

There’s no denying that summertime can be far more appealing for exercise but just about any workout can be customised for inside. These could include joining an indoor basketball team or dance class, doing yoga or working-out to a DVD in the comfort of your warm living room. You could also try stretching your leg on the kitchen bench while waiting for your toast, running up and down your staircase or engage in some high-intensity house cleaning to fast music!

In fact, working out inside can actually prove highly beneficial, with the warmer temperatures heating and relaxing our muscles, allowing for deeper stretches and reducing the likelihood of sprains or stiffness.

It’s always wise to warm up your muscles before commencing any rigorous exercise – even when it’s hot. Likewise, ensure you are dressed appropriately so as not to allow body heat to escape. Suitable footwear and woollen beanies will help retain body heat.

Bikram yoga is another excellent option for building flexibility, strength, concentration and endurance. Also known as ‘hot yoga’, this 90-minute style is practised in a 40-degree room consisting of 26 postures and two breathing exercises and is highly beneficial for blood circulation, concentration and the digestive system. It allows for an all-round workout after which you’ll be relishing the crisp sensations of your winter wonderland!