New season, new training: mix it up, get strong and keep the winter blues at bay!

Changing up your fitness routine for a new season makes sense. We need to change our nutrition and fitness regime every decade, adapting to our bodies ageing process and being aware that ‘box jumps’ in our 20’s don’t necessarily feel good, or do good in our 50’s! Eating the same diet we had as students or in our late 20’s probably won’t work in our 30’s and 40’s. We can’t get away with eating as much ‘crap’ once we hit 35 and beyond; it doesn’t melt off the same way, it sticks and adds another layer to our waistline! So, as we enter autumn and with winter on our doorstep, now is an opportunity to mix things up, try new things, get strong for winter sports and/or create new, stronger foundations for spring and summer goals. Plus, training through the darker months helps beat those winter blues.

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Whether you’re a cyclist, runner, swimmer, or do all three of these, winter can be tricky for training. Certainly at an elite level, British triathlon stars, such as Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee, hit the gym: they cut back on their 35 hours of swimming, running and cycling each week and work on their strength and agility. Yoga, TRX, circuit training and being barefoot as much as possible is all part of their GB triathlete winter schedule, which although won’t directly influence their speed and stamina in a race, it will help minimise injuries and optimise their performance when they start racing again.

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Trading the bike, run or swim for a TRX, hot yoga or circuit class on a cold and windy night can give you great gains in the spring. Indeed, Chris Pritchard, who competed for Scotland in the Commonwealth games in Cycling not only uses TRX, but recommends it to all cyclists, amateur and professional. He explains that during the racing season, the focus should be on miles on the road, but for winter, TRX is a great tool for building the ‘strength endurance’, needed in the legs on the bike.  ‘I like to think of the TRX as a whole gym.’ said Pritchard. ‘It’s not just a core-building tool, it’s perfect for strength endurance, because you can target a lot more of the stabilising muscles that help stabilise the joints in place. These muscles don’t necessarily get the workout they need when you’re doing a squat or bench press – you’re just using the bigger part of the muscle. The attachments and the tendon points don’t get activated. With the TRX, those muscles have got to fire up – it really does pull everything together, as opposed to just focusing on brute strength.’

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If maintaining your weight during the winter months is a key focus, then you need to keep moving. From studies, we know that during winter, we store more fat – it’s a chemical thing! But, the good news is, you can offset the ‘podgy promoting effects of winter’ by continuing to exercise: exercising increases enzymes that promote the burning of fat and just 30 mins exercise a day will do it!

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Additionally, staying active may help control anxiety and winter depression, caused by the darker days and nights. Exercise fires up your ‘fight-or-flight’ response, the evolutionary trigger for adrenaline, sweat and increased heart rate, which occurs when you are faced with a challenge! When you stop exercising, your body forgets how to handle stress, because you’ve allowed your ‘fight or flight’ response to lay dormant. A season of sitting down, taking it easy and lying on the couch can actually make you more anxious and less effective at handling stressful workplace situations or relationships.

Many people skip their workouts during winter at the very time it has the greatest payoff. Even if you feel sluggish, tired, cold, lethargic, you will always feel better after exercise. Failing to exercise when you feel bad, is probably the opposite of what you should be doing.

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For those of you planning your ski season, then a TRX conditioning session once a week will give you great dividends on the slope. Both cardio fitness and leg strength are essential attributes for skiing, but often the focus is on the quads(thighs) and not the back of the body: strong hamstrings can help protect your ACL knee joints; they literally stop your bones from slipping around! Strong back and butt will help you stay on the slopes longer; these muscles get a hammering when you are doing moguls! TRX hamstring curls, hip raises, side planks, skaters and suspended lunges give you the edge for this dynamic sport which involves vertical, lateral and rotational movement patterns. Being able to ‘hold it all together’ when you end up on one leg, or using lateral agility in the runs, will help you finish a turn quickly and start another straight away!

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For our hot yoga ski and snowboard fans, all that balance, coordination and moving with control in the heat on one leg, will keep you relaxed and calm on your board or ski’s – whilst in motion! Being relaxed in the mind and body will help you adapt and move freely.

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Whatever your plans for winter and beyond, it’s good to know we can stay healthy and fit, maintain our weight, keep our winter moods elevated and deal with stress by continuing to move and exercise. Start formulating your plan of action now.