This year, despite having come back from a wonderful, long honeymoon in tropical Mauritius, I have not suffered in the same way, despite it, according to the news every day, being ‘bitterly cold’. And the only thing that has changed, thanks to some inspirational books and yoga teachers, has been my ATTITUDE!
I am using my new, improved mindset, along with some practical strategies, to make this winter (meant to be the coldest in 50 years according to an article in the paper…) the warmest ever for me personally – and I want to share the love and the warmth with all of you, so you don’t need to put life off until spring!
These are super simple but HUGELY effective strategies, not to be sniffed (or sniffled) at! It is very easy to dismiss the simple things and not put them into practice – but, like with training and nutrition, often it is those very same simple tips and techniques, that can make the biggest difference in the long run!
1. Attitude & Mindset
This is the TOP strategy! Like with so many things, the attitude you bring to your daily life, with all it’s trials and tribulations sent to test us, is the one thing that determines your quality of life, and your day to day experience. If you focus on the negatives, life is, funnily enough, a negative, grey place! This goes in the summer too, of course!
Instead, decide to ‘let it be’. Decide not to mind whatever the weather has in store. Us Brits LOVE to have some weather story or other – too hot, too cold, too wet etc. Instead, why not break the mould, and just let whatever the weather has in store just be. If you can create a sense of inner calm and serenity, no weather can disrupt your state of mind. This is metaphorical of course, too. Being calm, centred, focusing on the present moment – as opposed to ruminating on the past or stressing about the future – means no matter what life throws at you, you will be OK!
When you focus on the present moment, stilling the chatter that tells you ‘it’s freezing’ or ‘I’m so cold’ (notice how your mind starts telling you these stories, and they become true!) instead shut out that voice. Focus on the actual sensations you are experiencing right now. There are many times in life where coldness is welcomed – cold water during a hot, summer training session, a cold beer on a summers’ evening, some fresh air when you have been stuck in traffic on a hot day…. If you can sense the cold without judgement that it is a ‘bad’ sensation, it becomes something quite different – invigorating. It can make you feel alive, alert, vibrant!
Of course, there are some strategies that mean you can actually enjoy the sensations of cold even more! If you spend all day long outside without adequate heating strategies you will get cold through and through, which is not good for you and to be avoided!
Again, a universal success strategy here: preparation! Making sure you have the right attire for the conditions is important. It can be hard to get right in countries where daily weather can vary. But that does not mean you can’t get it right! Make sure you have a base layer that is close fitting, and ideally wicks moisture away, so when you warm up you don’t end up holding onto sweat!
Even a brisk walk in winter can easily increase your temperature – so if you leave the house wearing the right amount of clothing for the start you will soon be too warm. So make sure that you wear several layers – that you can peel off as you warm up, and replace as you cool down.
A good hat and gloves are really important – if you are exercising you may find these soon become redundant, but they are a very quick way to make yourself feel warm quickly. Don’t forget your feet, too! Wearing ski socks, pulled up, and maybe even a second layer (I have waterproof socks that are genius – I wear them over ski socks when it is wet or cold, bearing in mind the grass is often wet in the morning even when it’s not raining). Fur-lined boots are great for walking, I have just invested in Uggs with a heel so my feet are super warm even when I don’t want to look too scruffy! I would avoid working out in Uggs though… Save them to put on when you get home, or for walking around.
Sealing the edges means you won’t get draughts – tucking layers in, a scarf around your neck etc! If you are exercising it won’t be long before you are happily peeling off the layers, but if you start well wrapped you will be more inclined to get out there and get stuck in!
The key is to make sure your core, or your trunk, is warm, and that you are not losing heat through the extremities.
And finally, make sure you have the house and water all warmed up, so when you get in from the cold you can take the layers off and be nice and cosy, and can truly enjoy that warm shower or bath. Knowing when you are out in the cold that there is a warm place at the end of it all is another way to worry less about temporary sensations of cold.
These external methods help, but there are some internal heat-generation methods that are even more important. You may have noticed that sometimes you will be wrapped up super warm, but soon you feel cold regardless. If you are not practicing the following then you are likely to have a cold winter!
3. Breathing (& Relaxation)
Breathing is the ultimate heat generator – but we forget about it! We don’t literally forget to breathe, of course, but we forget to use our breathing to our advantage!
Breathing is used in yoga to generate heat, among other things. If you notice your breathe now, it is likely to be quite shallow, hardly noticeable. If you are feeling tense, the breath often becomes even more restricted and shallow. If you are resisting the feeling of coldness, often we tighten up our bodies, especially our chest area, and restrict our breath further.
This has the opposite effect to what we would like! A classic case of ‘what you resist, persists’, the more we resist the cold and tighten up, the colder you will feel!
Taking control of the breath, taking long, deep breaths in and exhaling fully, can soon warm you up! It has the added benefit of relaxing you and this is another vital point. When you tense up your muscles, you restrict blood flow through the tissues. This causes you to feel even colder – you need to increase the blood flow to feel warmer! Step one being to relax and let go. Step two is to add a little more to the equation to get the bloody flowing even more…
Sitting still for too long, even in the summer, can result in feeling a bit chilly. Our bodies are designed to be active!
Even if you are stuck at your desk, you can move enough to improve bloody flow and encourage your body to generate heat internally. The ‘wiggle out’ that is part of my outdoor training warm ups all year round, gets you moving every single joint, and as such gets the entire body moving and warm. Start by rolling the shoulders, rotating the hips, circling the arms and legs, get the head going, get the arms going (think crazy 70s disco dancing moves!) and then the wrists and the ankles too. Then get the fingers and toes involved! If you are at your desk, you can start the other way round – wiggle the fingers and toes, progress to the wrists and ankles, and go as far as you feel comfortable in public! This has an added benefit of reducing the risk of RSI. Getting those joints moving will help on many levels!
This alone, especially combined with some deep, heat creating breathing, will get you feeling warm from the inside out in no time at all.
If you then use this to get moving even more, into a full workout, then of course you will be toasty and warm, peeling off those layers in no time!
It is so much more invigorating working out in the fresh air than in a stinky, sweaty gym. If you wrap up warm to get there, and warm up properly (even start your warm up indoors before leaving the house), it soon becomes the time when you can enjoy being outside more than ever. This is when the cold sensations on your face become even more welcome, and they add to the positive experience of feeling exhilerated, alive, rejuvenated and invigorated!
In the winter we spend even more time indoors than we do in the summer, and even in the summer months most of us are stuck indoors far more than our bodies want to be! If you miss this window of opportunity to really enjoy being outside then you are missing out on all the benefits of fresh air, and missing out on the ultimate ‘feel good’ factor.
Without even needing to focus on your fitness or physique goals to get you out of bed and into your workout, all you need to focus on is how much better you will feel for getting outside in the fresh air, and how invigorated you will feel afterwards!
So, instead of resisting the cold and hiding indoors, unless you really have to be out, why not embrace it? And let your body do it’s awesome work of generating internal heat!
5. Hydration & Nutrition
Hydration is not so much about warmth, but just a reminder that although you don’t seem to be sweating, you will be, even if you are walking briskly. Make sure you drink plenty of water at this time of year – it is too easy to forget as thirst signals can be blurred and the lure of cold water is less. Drink plenty of green teas, or herbal teas like rooibos or tulsi. A hot water with lemon squeezed into it is a fab way to start the day – I have a fab ginger tea I make and add lemon to, ginger being warming it’s a great addition!
Nutrition is an interesting one – everyone assumes they want hot, warming foods at this time of year, not least because the ads are tempting us with roast dinners and stodge! While a hot soup on a cold day can be wonderful, and the slow cooker is the way to make delicious and healthy casseroles and stews that are a great option, there is still place for the vibrance and colour of a gorgeous salad in the winter! Think of it as a taste of sunshine in your day! Getting raw veg into your diet means you are getting loads of vital nutrients in, that will help the immune system and ward off the sniffles. You can turn them into warm salads, by adding freshly cooked meat, fish, eggs or chicken, by toasting nuts or seeds to sprinkle on top, or by adding roasted veggies. But don’t shut salads away for winter – let them bring some sunshine to your meals instead! Drink a warm tea alongside your meal if need be, but avoid assuming cold food can’t work in cold weather. I often find that coming inside after being out in the cold, I feel so warm that a cold salad is actually welcome.
6. Gratitude & Positivity
This links back to number 1, but deserves a point of it’s own! Give thanks, every day, for all the wonderful things we are blessed with. No ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’, just focus for a few moments (first thing in the morning and last thing at night are great times to do this) on all the things you have to be thankful for. Notice any residual frowning soften into a slight smile as you think about these things. Even those who have a lot of hardship can think of a lot of things to be thankful for, but the hardship can take over our thinking and become our whole lives.
Be thankful you have a heated home to return to after being out in the cold, that you can wrap up toasty and warm in your clothes and get out and enjoy a brisk walk, that you are fit and healthy, you have family and friends you love etc. Don’t hold back – focus on all the good things, and feel the warm glow of love and contentment build inside – a subtle form of heat generation, but a really important one!
7. Get Out There! Play! Have Fun!
Again, this is an attitude!
If you allow your mind to take over and remind you of all the negatives (‘I don’t like being cold, it’s dark outside, I want to stay in bed’ etc etc) then you are letting the weather and external circumstances dictate not only your experience of each day, your figure, your health, your wellbeing (if you are missing your training sessions and eating stodge) but also your enjoyment of life as a whole!
Kids are the first to get excited over snow, and they seem to play in it without even realising it’s cold! Sometimes, (because of lack of planning) they realise far too late, but as adults we can get the best of both worlds – being prepared, using all the strategies in this article, and then taking the kids’ attitude and just getting out there and having fun! Play with it, don’t fight it!
Exercising outdoors can be the ultimate youth-reactivating behaviour, as it reminds us of what it was like to be young, playing outside without a care in the world, when ‘sensible’ adults are all cooped up inside!
Life is far too short and precious to miss out on living every winter of each year, and your goals are too important to put on hold, too. People who do that are the ones who never achieve their goals, who constantly bemoan the duff hand life has given them, who spend life in a constant state of negativity, chronic low-level ill health (colds all winter?!) and bring everyone else down with them.
Do you want to be one of those people?
Or do you want to be the kind of person who makes the conscious choice to enjoy each moment, living life to the fullest, embracing life and all it has to offer? Do you want to stick with it and achieve your goals, feel as good as you can be and inspire those around you to do the same?
I know which one I want to be! I’m guessing you do too? So use these strategies and take the plunge, dive right in to life and get out there, whatever the weather, and ENJOY!
To find out how you can exercise in the great outdoors and get the internal fire going, check out http://www.fitbodyfix.com!
If any of you have any other tips, then comment in the blog or in the forum: http://www.fitbodyfix.com/forumThis entry was posted in Lifestyle. Bookmark the permalink.