By Evan Adler
Congratulations! You have made it through another year of training, races, and, hopefully, new PRs. As the colder months usher in decreased daylight hours and increased holiday culinary temptations, let’s consider the potential perils of the off season and how to avoid them.
Many people will hang up their running shoes and bike shorts over the winter since they don’t like the cold. However, this is the perfect opportunity to embrace the indoors and some cross training options such as engaging in core strengthening programs, spin classes, indoor rock climbing, or swimming. The winter months may not be as conducive for outdoor activities, but finding a new favorite way to burn the calories consumed from cuddling up in front of the fireplace with your cocoa will help you when the great thaw comes. Off-season training is particularly important to maintain the strength and cardiovascular gains you have made during the year. While it can take two months to gain strength and endurance, it can be lost in less than two weeks of being idle.
Traveling for the holidays can be disruptive to your training schedule. When making the pilgrimage to see family here are a few ways to make sure you continue to stay active: First, if you are staying in a hotel, pack your workout clothes in a small, separate bag and hit the gym as soon as you arrive. When you take the time to unpack and see what is on the free HBO, you decrease the likelihood of utilizing the facilities in the hotel.
Second, build your runs into your travel by signing up for a local race at your destination. Not only do you get to cross that state off of your race list, but you have a committed time and location to run with a large group of like-minded athletes looking to keep their running buzz going year-round.
Third, use your run as an excuse to further engage or avoid your family. Maybe your cousin has just started running and needs some family support? Perhaps your uncle has just endorsed Morgan Freeman for president because he was so convincing in Deep Impact (1998) and you need to literally run away. Possibly your mom’s good home cookin’ means you will consume your complete daily caloric intake at each of your five daily meals for which you will need to burn off the extra fuel regularly.
Why So Glum, Chum?
Daylight is at a premium during the winter and that can trigger some physiological and psychological changes. Season Affective Disorder (SAD) is condition experienced by over 3 million people a year, particularly in the fall to winter months. SAD has hallmark symptoms of irritability, low energy, oversleeping, appetite changes, weight gain, and feelings of heaviness of the arms and legs. Thankfully, SAD is treatable with very conservative measures such as phototherapy (specialized light therapy box that mimics natural outdoor light) and regular exercise. With as little as 20 minutes of exercise and 10 minutes of natural sunlight, the brain will release neurotransmitters to relieve stress and anxiety.
No matter how you feel about this season, don’t let the cold freeze you in your tracks. Stay active. Find a new hobby. Get out the door. Get moving. Your body and your family might thank you for it.
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Evan Adler PT, DPT is a Physical Therapist at ATI Physical Therapy. He is an avid runner and sometime triathlete who enjoys getting involved with the local running community and spending time with his wife and son.