A recent study showed that nearly 30% of regular exercise users stop or reduce their exercise activity in the winter. With many people leaving and returning from their workplace in nearly dark conditions the temptation to become a couch potato becomes greater.
However, for the more serious runner, cyclist or triathlete these months play a vital role for the following year’s race calendar and become a vital part in the training year. These months becomes a time to build a solid base training programme, come out of race mode and concentrate on becoming stronger.
As an Ironman athlete I change my training programme totally during the winter months. I don’t incorporate any speed work into my training, largely concentrating on hill work workouts, heavy weights training and longer duration cardio sessions.
I spoke before on the importance of having a structure to your training regime and small goals to strive for. So just because the more natural path to take in these dark cold days is to become a couch potato, change your thinking and make changes to your exercise regime to overcome the negativity that can be associated to this time of the year.
Even for the beginner or the less serious athlete the same attitude should be adapted to overcome the obstacles set before us in these months. So what changes can be made? Any person exercising at an intensive level on a frequent basis is more prone to picking up cold and flu symptoms. This is largely due to the fact that this training weakens the immune system. To combat this why not take a multi vitamin sports supplement to help maintain a healthy body.
One of the most common mistakes I see these days is people running in cold or wet weather in training gear that is totally wrong for the conditions. I am a firm believer that no matter what sport you participate in, the correct gear should be used to make the participation more pleasurable and safer and in some cases improving performance and aiding recovery.
There is a vast range of manufacturers that specialise in compression clothing, windproof clothing, wet proof apparel etc, some of which I recommended in previous weeks. It would be nice not to see a runner in shorts and a tee shirt in cold winter months, but how is this person protecting the working muscles and maintaining the correct core body temperature?
Is prevention not better than cure? Why not participate in an indoor class? As the weather deteriorates and using the outdoors becomes a harder task, instead of missing out and losing your fitness that has taken months to build, join an indoor fitness class that suits your needs and helps maintain your cardio fitness.
For most beginners maintaining their fitness and keeping motivation is the main goal during this period but can turn into a hard one. If you’re a walker or a runner use areas where lights are dominant? As the days now become darker change your route to a safer environment. Adapt to the conditions.
During the winter it is very easy to become dehydrated as the body does not feel as warm as in summer months. Sweating is not as vigorous as in warmer months so look out for the symptoms and regularly check. Another common mistake post exercise is entering an outdoor cold environment after sweating heavily whilst wearing the same apparel.
Why? Surely taking a few minutes to apply a warm dry garment would be the correct procedure. These small silly mistakes can lead to illness, which in turn can put you out of action for days maybe weeks.
CHANGE YOUR DIET
As I stated maintaining a strong immune system is vital during the winter, incorporating foods that will replenish the lost minerals and nutrients is vital. So why should your exercise suffer?
The above are some recommendations, small basic steps needed to keep you on the fitness journey that maybe was so hard to start. Again depending on the level and intensity of activity these changes can help in keeping the motivation needed to carry you through this challenging period.
Making these changes is progression, I certainly wouldn’t let a season in the year dictate my training regime, why should you? Think of the winter as preparation for the summer!