Fitness Corner: Beating the winter blues

Winter may not be here yet but it sure does feel like it’s on the way. Born and raised in sunny Southern California, I found the coldness and darkness of fall and winter in the Pacific Northwest challenging every single year. Even here in Texas, where it is undeniably sunnier and warmer further into fall, I feel it looming.

I’m still that sunny Southern California girl, but after years of winter experience, I’ve figured out some tried and true methods that help me beat back my general seasonal malaise. If you have no problems with winter, I am envious! But if any of my experiences resonate with you, feel free to add them to your seasonal toolkit.

  1. I accept the inevitable, even though I don’t like it. Winter is coming and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. There’s no sense in wasting precious energy on something that I can’t control so I the first thing I do is strive for a more positive mindset. And what follows is that. . .
  2. I do my best to embrace the season. It’s undeniably darker, colder and in general more dismal. But for the first couple of months of winter weather, it’s the holidays! Most years, I decorate a bit for fall, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. The holidays are special to me, something to be excited about, and it takes the edge off for (at least) part of the winter. But no matter how busy it gets. . .
  3. I never stop exercising outdoors (and I never stop exercising in general!) It can be challenging to bundle up and head out into a biting cold wind week after week, month after month, but it’s worth it. The feeling of satisfaction I get from completing a cold weather walk, run, hike or bike ride, is tremendous. It’s especially worth it on sunny days, it helps break up the feeling of darkness. Even one or two days a week outside is a body and mind booster. And moving for extended periods of time helps me in my never-ending goal to warm up because . . .
  4. I am constantly cold in winter. (Also fall and spring. And sometimes summer!) This is a huge problem for me. So, I make liberal use of hand warmers, toe warmers, blankets, electric blankets, heating pads, fuzzy sheepskin slippers, multiple socks, and what I call a “beanie.” It’s rice sown into a cotton sack that heats up nicely in the microwave and goes on my toes. (This thing is genius. Best feet warmer ever!) If it sounds like I am spoiling myself, I sure am, and when I am sitting there in the evenings, warm and cozy, all bundled up . . .
  5. I plan a getaway. Preferably to a destination that is warmer and brighter! It is particularly effective for me to travel in January or February, after the distraction of the holidays is over and the doldrums of winter seem relentless. Taking a trip is a great morale booster, but looking forward to it for weeks or months at a time, is particularly effective. Another morale booster that works for me is . . .
  6. I bring light into the dark days. I occasionally use a light box that you turn on first thing every morning for a period of time. (On those cold dark PNW mornings it bathed me in a brightness and with regular use it felt like it made a difference.) I also embrace lighting candles. The glow is so cozy and warm on a dark winter day or night; it goes a long way toward boosting my spirits. And I give myself extra credit for enjoying a fire on a cold crisp night, whether indoors or out! It’s even more cozy with a glass of red wine, but . . .
  7. I try to keep my diet consistent and eat moderately, as the tendency to hunker down with comfort food becomes so much stronger as the weather gets colder and darker. Routine helps me stay grounded, and eating healthy supports me mentally and physically (for me that’s more fruits, veggies and lean protein, and less processed foods, sugar and refined carbohydrates.) In the fall I start to eat more seasonal produce, such as apples and squash, and more warm foods, like soup and steel cut oatmeal; as well as mentally prepare to withstand the onslaught of holiday treats. If I can find and maintain a balance between indulging and eating mostly what’s right for me, I feel better, mentally and physically.

Fall and winter are inevitable. But so are spring and summer. Until the seasons change again, stay healthy, warm and upbeat!

Pritam Potts

— By Pritam Potts

Coach Pritam Potts is a writer and strength coach. After 16+ years of training athletes and clients of all ages as co-owner of Edmonds-based Advanced Athlete LLC, she now lives in Dallas, Texas. She writes about health & fitness, grief & loss, love & life at www.advancedathlete.com.

 

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