There's something about summer's hot weather that makes us all want to get into shape, but there's also something about cold weather that makes us want to stay in bed with a hot chocolate. We all know this feeling. Trying to get motivated to exercise through the winter months can be hard ... very hard. Especially when it's dark outside, frostily cold and just the act of walking outside feels like diving into iced water.
Its just plain uncomfortable (to many others laughable) and would send the hardiest of exercise nuts scurrying back to the warmth of their beds. However, even though the best of us shrink into hibernation mode as soon as the cold weather hits, the marvellous invention of mid winter breaks to sunny beaches, and (of course) endless Christmas balls and parties, demands the presence of healthy, toned and 'beach ready' bodies.
There's nothing more horrible than looking in the mirror and feeling like you're a bloated balloon, and even more horrifying is when you're on a beach or in the middle of a party wearing a lovely dress, but feeling like a beached whale. Its too easy to overeat and under-exercise during winter and its not easy to break the habit without some help. So here are some tips to keep your body happy and healthy this winter, and some ideas on exercises.
First, even though everyone's aim is to have a 'thin and sexy body' my focus (as yours should be too) is on having a 'healthy body'. There is no point in having a stick thin figure if you have flabby muscles, sallow skin and smell horrible – an unfortunate side effect of fad diets and weight loss pills.
Eating healthily during the winter months - in any country, can be a challenge for many reasons. Food is everyone's downfall and when it comes to holiday food, no one, and I mean no one is immune. Rich, salty, sugary, and delicious dishes take centre stage for events such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve. Unfortunately holiday food is packed full of unhealthy sugars, carbs, fats and alcohol which all contributes not only to expanding your waist line, but also lowering your immune system that in turn, can leave you vulnerable to illness.
It's doubly hard to say 'no' to food that you only eat once a year, especially when it smells and tastes so devilishly good, but it is important to make sure you limit your portions so that you don't overdo it. A good method to approach this with, is to fill up on healthy snacks such as fruit and vegetables and low-fat dips first, and then when the real goodies come out, take one bite from each dish that you 'can't live without', making sure you savour it.
Healthy eating during winter is also very difficult because of the lack of sunlight we get. As the sun rises later and sets earlier, we are exposed to less and less sun, which can lead to a drop in our Vitamin D and serotonin levels in our bodies.
So during the winter, its good to try and get outside as much as possible to catch as much sunlight as you can. Many doctors suggest taking Vitamin D supplements during the winter to compensate for the lack of sunlight and to help your body stay healthy. Vitamin D has been shown to reduce the risk of colon, breast and ovarian cancers by as much as 50%, but it is advisable to ask your doctor first before taking any supplements.
Serotonin is an essential chemical produced in cells in our bodies that is found in the gut and in the central nervous system. It primarily helps to regulate intestinal movements but it also has various functions including regulating mood, appetite, and sleep patterns, and is also thought to assist learning and storing memories. Low serotonin levels have been known to cause depression and food cravings, therefore it's very important to keep your serotonin levels in balance, and the best way to do this is through eating the right food.
So even though it feels too cold to drink smoothies or eat fruit, it's important that you maintain a healthy and balanced diet so that you can keep your skin and body healthy and happy. To help boost your Serotonin levels, try eating healthy carbs such as whole grains, sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkins, and squash. Fruit is also very important for the body, providing healthy sugars with a good mix of vitamins and minerals. Fresh food is sometimes more expensive to buy during winter, but try to get as much fresh fruit and vegetables as possible. Meat such as chicken, beef, lamb, pork and fish should all be organic to reduce the presence of damaging hormones and chemicals, and try not to buy frozen meat or vegetables as their nutritional value is drastically reduced.
To further help your immune system during winter and to help ward off colds, flu and general yucky germs floating around, maintain your Vitamin B and C intake. Foods that have these vitamins in them are cabbage, citrus fruit, broccoli, pumpkin, sweet potato, and spinach. Zinc is also important which is found in fish, oysters, poultry, eggs (make sure they're free range), milk, unprocessed grains and cereals.
You'd also be happy to know that Green Tea is also good for warding off germs, and has been proved to stimulate the production and activity of specific cells associated with combating viruses. Try to keep alcohol to a minimum as its infamous for stressing the immune system, so please drink responsibly.
Final note: Human bodies need much less food than you think to survive. So try and work out how much food you really need to eat. Its important to get the correct portions for your body as over eating can become an illness in itself putting more strain on your heart and digestive system which can lead to further complications.
To find this out, on your next meal, eat slowly, starting with the healthiest food on your plate. Chew your food thoroughly and stop eating as soon as you feel 'comfortably' full. Never fill you stomach to 'bursting' as it puts your body under extra stress to digest the food.
The 'munchies' are also a common problem in cold weather, as you feel the need to go to the fridge or the cupboard every 5 minutes for biscuits or chocolates. To keep yourself in check, ask yourself these questions and it will help you stay on track:
1) "Am I hungry or actually thirsty?"
2) "Am I hungry or bored?"
3) "Am I hungry or just tired of dark day s and winter?"
Cardio is the first step in any exercise as it covers the entire body. It's perfect for losing weight, building strength and muscle and generally improving your health. The great news is that there are loads of cardio exercises you can choose from and most of them are free! There is no perfect cardio exercise, but choose one that gets your heart rate up and preferably one that you enjoy so that you'll work harder, and get healthier faster.
1) Running is a great exercise that helps to get you fit fast. It's high impact, so it raises your heart rate quicker. It also helps to build strong bones and muscles, and burns a lot of calories fast. All you need is the right shoes and some warm running clothes, and you're ready to go. If you lack the motivation to go out on your own, there are many running clubs around London you can join for free, so go out, make some friends, get fit and have fun.
2) Bicycling is a fantastic and fun workout. Whether you have a bike or not, you can incorporate it into your daily life. If you don't have a bike, you can do cycling and spinning in classes in the gym. Cycling burns anywhere from 250-500 calories in 30 minutes, depending on your speed and level of resistance. Its low impact, so it's great for your joints and perfect for cross training for high impact sports such as running and aerobics.
3) Swimming is a great cardio choice, because unlike running and cycling, it's a full body exercise involving both upper and lower body muscles and therefore you burn more calories. It's probably not the best for winter due to the cold, but if you have access to an indoor swimming pool, you'd get a full body workout, your joints would be fully supported so you wont have any high impact injuries, and you'll tone up very quickly.
4) Aerobics classes, if you like choreographed aerobics this high impact workout will have you pumped and energized. They typically target your legs, bums and tums, and their fast pace ensures that you burn at least 300-500 calories in an hour, depending on the intensity of the class.
5) Dance classes are a fantastic way to keep fit. Gyms, dance schools and health clubs all offer great classes that will get your hips shaking, your feet bouncing and shoulders shimmying. They include all the body's muscles and some you never knew you had. Zumba, Salsa, Hip Hop, and belly dancing are only some of the most popular and the most fun.
6) Martial Arts classes are another very good workout. Like dancing, these classes are designed to educate and as well as to shape your body, therefore you benefit from aligning your mind and body in a common direction. Karate and Kickboxing classes involve both the upper and lower body, making this an excellent workout. Learning how to kick and punch is a lot of fun, so I'd recommend it just for the fun of it.
7) Signing up for a boot camp is a brilliant way to motivate yourself and get fit faster. Most gyms offer them with their membership packages, but if you are strapped for cash these days, try a membership with British Military Fitness (BMF). They're a group of well trained, ex military personnel who structure the exercises based on military training. Its hard work but a lot of fun and you'll be surprised just how fast you'll progress under their command.
Working on strengthening your body, is slightly more work, but definitely worth it. If you already do a cardio work out, building strength helps to give you muscle tone and builds endurance. There are two main methods of building strength, one is doing mat/floor work in the gym with weights and machines, the other is signing up to classes such as Body Pump and Body Conditioning offered in Virgin Active gyms, that focus on building muscle. You can also do these exercises at home, but it helps if you have a gym instructor on hand to help you through the various exercises and plan a routine.
You should focus on each of these muscles for an all round body workout: chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, lower body and abdominals.
Mind & Body –
It's important to balance all this good work with some calming exercise such as yoga or Pilates that helps to stretch, relax and calm your mind as well as your muscles. Every gym, school and health club offers yoga and Pilates, but there are some specialised yoga centres that can give you the specific classes you may be after. Such as Sicananda Yoda Centre in Putney, The Perseverance Clinic in Richmond, the Life Centre in Notting Hill, or the Alchemy Centre in Camden.
Yoga helps to achieve harmony and balance spiritually, mentally and physically so I'd recommend doing a course of yoga first, but if you're not too into the spiritual side of things, going to a Pilates class would be just as beneficial.
The benefits include:
1) Muscle stretching, which will help to reduce the risk of injury, and increase blood circulation.
2) Building muscle and bone strength, muscle tone and stamina.
3) Breathing control to help reduce your heart rate, dissipate tension and stress management methods.
4) Relaxation and meditation.
Well, that's it! I know it's a lot to take in, but believe me it's well worth the effort. I guarantee that if you start on an exercise program (either by yourself or with a gym) that includes at least one of these three exercise sections, within a couple of weeks, you'll feel physically fit and healthy, have a more positive frame of mind, a lot more energy and even better, when you look at yourself naked in the mirror, you'll feel absolutely fabulous.
A lot of good info here but it is sad that you are so stringent that you suggest folks fill up on mega healthy food and only eat a mere mouthful of the yummies one can't resist even during celebration times. It is not the over indulgence at celebration times like Xmas, birthdays etc that causes the weight probs. It is the constant over indulgence. Come on honey! Lighten up your advice a little please. Most of us humans just aint built to be that heavily into denial and some things are meant to be enjoyed occasionally.