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Exercise tips for the winter
Cold mornings find us just too happy to be tucked inside a quilt or basking in the warm winter sun with exercise being the furthest thought in our mind. Somehow, we have also come to accept that winter means indulging in hot and heavy meals, repeated cups of steaming tea and other indulgences like hard drinks. You also tend to gain appetite, eat more, choose heavier and intense foods, and with exercise taking backseat find the kilos mounting on the scale. To top this, layered in warm clothes, you hardly note the extra weight gain, and even if you do think that summer is time to shed the fat. Not the best thought as consistency is key to your best body and a healthy and active lifestyle. Irrespective of the season, body needs to stay active to be fit and strong. The ill effects of an unhealthy lifestyle doesn’t differ, be it summer or winter. So instead of hiding behind excuses, make a firm commitment to exercise this winter to increase your overall health and quality of life. Apart from the many health benefits, exercise helps improve immune system which protects against common winter ailments such as cold. Additionally you actually burn more calories exercising in winter because your body has to work harder to keep warm.
You can take up different activities and exercises to match the season which also suits your exercise needs and interest. There is lots to choose from – both indoor and outdoor -such as walking, jogging, weight training, aerobics, dancing, cardio machines, kickboxing, yoga, mountain biking, hiking, etc. Below are listed some tips to make your winter workout more effective.
The right choice of clothing is the most important aspect of planning your fitness program during winter. This could be a deciding factor for consistency and making your winter workout enjoyable and effective. You should wear warm and comfortable clothes that allow unrestricted movements. Layering of clothes is the best way of maintaining heat for both indoor and outdoor activities. Layering helps to trap hot air in between the clothes. It also allows you to remove the top layer if it gets too hot. For your innermost layer, use fabrics such as polypropylene and fleece. These are light garments designed to keep your body temperature steady while wicking the moisture away from your skin to the surface layer of clothing instead of absorbing it. Cotton and wool are a bad choice because it absorbs the sweat making your clothes soggy and heavy. The middle layer serves as an insulator. A loose lightweight sweater, sweatshirt or a long sleeved t- shirt is a good choice. A light easy to open jacket can go on as the top layer.
It is true that you sweat less during winter compared to summer. However it’s just as important to stay hydrated when exercising in winter as it is in summer even though you might not feel as thirsty. Water intake before, during and after exercise is very important to maintain hydration and replenish water loss through sweating. Half a liter of water two hours prior to your workout and 100 to 150ml of water at 20 -30 minute intervals during workout is recommended.
Warm up – Warm up is most crucial during winter. It takes longer in the cold temperature to warm up so give at least 10 -15 minutes for your body to prepare. Start slow and gradually build up the intensity. If you engage in your primary workout out without proper warm up it could lead to injuries and under performance.
Primary Exercise – You can remain on your normal workout routine. You should only alter your routine if you are not getting results or if you are getting bored. Because of the cold temperature, your body drops heat faster so make sure that the rest period between sets are not unnecessarily prolonged. The idea is to keep moving to keep your muscles warm. Strength and endurance based programs such as circuit training, kickboxing and dynamic yoga are ideal for an effective outcome.
Cool down – Cool down is the last phase of the exercise and you should not avoid it for any reason. You should spend about five to ten minutes performing stretches during cool down. Cool down helps the body (physiological and mental) to safely transit from exercise mode to normal mode. And it also ensures fast recovery.
Eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet including lots of seasonal fruits and green vegetables into your meals. Have plenty of oranges and berries which are full of Vitamin C and antioxidants that boost your immune system. Nutritious soups, slow cooked lean meats with steamed vegetables, khichadi are great winter choices. Also choose green tea over regular tea or coffee, or simply sip on warm water. Digestion tends to be sluggish so ensure that you are not overloading the stomach. Eat consciously and eat to mild fullness.
Please refer to last week’s article on how to stay motivated to exercise during winter. Stay fit. Stay strong.
Sandesh Palungwa Limbu is a certified professional fitness instructor, founder of RAGE Fitness, and also specialises in mixed martial arts. For answers to your fitness queries, write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org