Winter can be a bleak time of year. Birds will fly south for the winter and those that canít fly will burrow themselves away for a long sleep. Itís little wonder then that at this time of year the gym is quieter and the runners that once pounded the pavements are nowhere to be seen.
Itís a natural Palaeolithic instinct for us to shun the cold weather, avoid activity and eat more. We needed this instinct for survival, but in the age of plenty we live in, this instinct has become an excuse. The gym gets substituted for comfort food and a night in front of the television, and that early morning run turns into an extra hour in bed.
Itís not just motivation that suffers, but our immune system is put to the test as colds and flu start flying around. We feel lethargic as more energy is being spent on maintaining body heat. Our social lives change as the run up to Christmas means more parties, social gatherings and lots of tempting but calorific foods on offer.
In short, itís during this time of year that everything starts to conspire against the well planned diet and exercise regime. If this picture sounds familiar then read on, weíll tell you exactly how to buck this frosty trend and keep the heat on this winter.
Letís start with diet, why? It has a huge impact on how you feel and your energy levels. Itís also important your diet fits the time of year and provides you with the right calorie intake. Myproteinís elite nutritionist and exercise physiologist, Laurent Bannock, explains why: ďWhen itís cold your body uses more energy to keep its internal temperatures balanced. Itís therefore important that you eat frequently but also eat nutrient dense foods such as vegetables and lean meats. Itís not an excuse to eat junk or excess calories but you do need to ensure you increase your food intake. Make sure you have a good solid meal a couple of hours before you train and throw in some potatoes or sweet potatoes to keep energy levels up.Ē
Zoran Dubaic, elite strength and condition coach at Strength and Performance agrees. He has some handy tips for keeping your nutrition on track during the winter: ďPreparation is the key to ensuring you donít get caught out and fall into bad habits. Think about dishes that you can cook on mass and freeze in tubs. That way youíve always got something you can defrost overnight ready for the next day. Using a slow cooker is also a great way to save time, just throw in some fibre rich veggies and protein rich meat and let it stew all day. Blended soups will also increase your intake of nutrient dense vegetables, especially if this is something you struggle with.Ē
Choose your meat - chicken, beef, pork, lamb - then dice it
2 onions, red and white
400ml vegetable or chicken stock
Pinch of sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Squeeze of lemon juice
2 garlic cloves
a squeeze of tomato puree
tin of chopped tomatoes
OK, this is your base and then from this you add anything you want. Choose as many vegetables as you like, these could be:
Put all the ingredients in a slow cooker or on a low oven temp for 3-4 hours and you have the perfect stew.
The winter months are a great time to hit the gym and do some heavy lifting to bulk up. Focus on big compound movements such as the deadlift, bench press, squat and overhead press. They are all perfect exercises for adding strength and size and will generate a muscle building hormonal response from your body.
If youíre new to weight training then itís worth investing some time to master the correct technique for the above. Poor form and bad technique will seriously reduce the effectiveness of these compound exercises and may even cause injury. Remember, more is not better, better is better, so donít be afraid to keep your workouts simple. The old ones are often the best and pulls ups, press ups and dips all have plenty of variations to keep you progressing. Once they have been mastered then adding weight vests and chains provide a new stimulus for greater gains.
Adding a finisher to your weight training will also help to keep body fat levels low and maintain cardio. This can be High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) on the treadmill or rower, a barbell complex, farmerís walks or hitting some sled pulls or prowler pushes.
Once your training and diet are in check, itís time to look at supplementation.
If diet is the fuel in your tank then supplementation is definitely the oil, and to keep your engine healthy and firing on all cylinders this winter youíre going to need to take excellent care of it. In the diet section we covered the importance of energy levels and keeping them topped but post exercise recovery is more important than ever during the winter.
After training your body is crying out for the necessary nutrients it needs for repairs and growth. You will also have a depressed immune system which will leave you susceptible to infection. Using an all in one like Recovery or Hurricane XS will ensure your body gets exactly what it needs straight after a workout. Recovery XS in particular contains 4.5g of Glutamine, 5.5g of Leucine, electrolytes and Vitamin C that combine with Impact Whey Isolate and Waxy Maize starch to provide fast acting recovery.
There are certain products that weíd recommend as a staple of any exercise regime but when it comes to ensuring your immune system stays healthy, Vitamin D3 perhaps has the most research behind it. Vitamin D triggers immune response to infection by activating human T-cells. These cells are an important part of the immune system and fight off infection. Danish scientists discovered when T-cells can't find vitamin D in the blood they won't take action to destroy invading germs. This allows infections to flourish in people with low serum levels of vitamin D.
The above is all important but if youíre struggling to get to training in the first place then there are two things you can do. If you need a boost before your workout then itís worth reading the Activate review by MP Athlete Craig Pickering in this monthís newsletter. You could also read the next section on motivation.
If youíve worked hard all summer and made good progress then think about where you want to be come January. Like the rest of the population feeling guilty about the excesses of Christmas?
Training and nutrition must be a habit, a lifestyle. Thereís no easy way out and there is certainly no shortcut home. If youíre really struggling to stay motivated then here are a few basic changes you can make:
ē Have a goal. Itís perhaps the most obvious thing in the world but if youíve got nothing to keep you working hard then when the going gets tough then youíre far more likely to give up. Make it performance based and your physical appearance will take care of itself.
ē Do something new, something that youíve never tried before. If you enjoy it then youíre far more likely to stick with it.
ē Reward yourself for training hard. Thereís nothing wrong with a cheat meal once a week as long as it involves a good amount of quality protein e.g. Steak and chips. A reward could also be a night out or a sports massage. Obviously, if youíre supplementing with True Whey then your reward comes at the end of every training session.
As MP expert Shaun Edwards testifies, motivation comes from within, only you can motivate yourself to achieve your goals. If youíre lacking in inspiration then get an inside peak at how UFC Fighter Ross Pearson trains on our YouTube Channel.
If you have any tips for training during the winter then please comment on this article and share them with the MP community.
Professor Carsten Geisler, Department of International Health, Immunology and Microbiology at the University of Copenhagen.
Vladimar M. Zatsiorsky & William J. Kraemer (2006) Science and Practice of Strength Training. 2ND Edition. Goal Specific Strength Training, 160