Staying fit in the winter

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As the days get shorter and the leaves fall to the ground, we prepare ourselves for winter. Being from northern Canada, I have savoured the long, warm fall that we have had and shiver as I look at the sub-zero temperatures back home! I know full well that soon Brussels will also turn cold, wet and dark, enough to make the most dedicated fitness fan hit the snooze button on early morning training sessions. But winter can be a great time to build on your fitness, and I want to give you a few ideas on how to stay in shape and stay healthy this winter season. Winter presents us with familiar feelings – the desire for warmth, plenty of opportunities to connect with family and friends and delicious seasonal food meant to nourish our bodies and souls. For many, it is a very busy time, so tip number one: schedule your workouts in your agenda to fend off those pesky holiday pounds. Revisit your wellbeing goals set earlier in the year and commit to making them reality before the end of the year. Remember, regular exercise helps fend off colds and flu, as well as keeping seasonal mood swings at bay. Read on for fun and effective ways to keep moving inside and outside this season.

Explore your winter wonderland

One thing I know for sure is that you will have a greater sense of daily wellbeing if you get outside and experience the elements. Don’t be afraid of the rain or snow, instead grab your hat and gloves and explore the best that winter has Explore your winter wonderland. One thing I know for sure is that you will have a greater sense of daily wellbeing if you get outside and experience the elements. Don’t be afraid of the rain or snow, instead grab your hat and gloves and explore the best that winter has to offer. As we say in Canada – there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear! Recent studies have shown that people who exercise outside do so for longer and at a higher intensity, logging on average 30 more minutes per week than those who exercise indoors. Furthermore, participants reported higher levels of vitality and enthusiasm towards daily tasks. They had less fatigue, stress and depression. Head outside during daylight hours to get your daily dose of natural vitamin D, important for bone and cardiovascular health as well as improved mood and cognitive function. If you like to walk or run, winter is a great time to build basic endurance. The cooler temperatures are ideal for longer sessions that form the base for adding speed and power sessions in early spring. Cooler temperatures also present fun ways to exercise outside. Ice-skating, roller skiing and snowshoeing are excellent forms of cardiovascular activity. They also use muscles and movement patterns that are dormant the rest of the year. Winter activities are often done best with friends and family, so we have the added value of social connection and a good laugh while improving our health!

But it’s COLD outside

Inevitably, we have to supplement our outdoor activities with some training inside during the coldest weeks of the year. When icy, cold, dark conditions drive you indoors don’t despair – many great discoveries await you at the gym. Winter is a busy time of year in the gym and club managers cater to members with timetables full of group classes. Top-level clubs like Aspria offer the latest fitness classes – everything from Bootcamp to Zumba, tango dancing to TRX – there is something for everyone. I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, and yes, get off your favourite cardio machine to try some new forms of exercise. Complement your running, cycling and stair climbing with classes that focus on flexibility and strength. Instructors love to see new faces, and you benefit by beating the boredom that comes from repeating the same workout every day. The holiday season is around the corner and with it brings many temptations and barriers to improving your level of fitness. I encourage you to take control this year by having a rock solid plan to avoid the common pitfalls of holiday parties and nights out. This is where having a personal trainer can pay huge dividends. Your trainer will sit down with you to develop a training plan that suits your lifestyle. Great trainers will listen to your unique needs and present you with a plan that includes exercise and nutrition goals that are attainable and move you towards your fitness objectives.

No sniffles please

We can’t feel great if we are constantly fighting off the flu and colds that run rampant in the humid Belgian winters. Exercise, inside and outside, is essential to keeping the immune system strong all season long. Cold and flu prevention includes a healthy diet full of citrus fruits and colourful vegetables. Drink plenty of water. Remember your daily dose of a good multi-vitamin, Omega 3 and probiotic. Wash your hands before you eat and frequently throughout the day. Finally, if you do have a big night out, ensure that you get adequate rest and focus on hydrating your body. Recover with a brisk walk outside and a re-commitment to your wellbeing plan. Make this winter your favourite season of 2013 by keeping a positive outlook. You will enjoy it so much more if you embrace all that it has to offer.

Patti Bruns is a Personal Trainer at Aspria Royal La Rasante

patti.p2b@gmail.com