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Don’t let the winter blues slow you down

By Christie Melhorn, January 17 2017 —

Now that the holidays are over, the charm of waking up to glittering heaps of snow is gone. The extra time needed to bundle up and slick roads can make it difficult to stick to a set schedule — especially when it comes to hitting the gym. To melt the motivation freeze that comes with the grueling cold weather, I borrowed advice from Chatelaine, Men’s Fitness and active.com to help keep you from wanting to dive back into your warm bed.

One of the best ways to set up a successful day is to prepare ahead of time. The night before, write a list of where you need to be and what you need to get done at specific times. This will keep you focused and organized throughout the day. It provides incentive to get things done and a sense of reward for doing so. Preparing a tasty breakfast ahead of time is a great way to smooth out your mornings, especially for those of us who can barely stand in the morning, let alone pour cereal into a bowl. Paluna Santamaria, a trainer and nutrition consultant for Nike, argues that a pre-made breakfast high in protein and healthy fats will give you a great boost first thing. Having a nutritious and tasty meal waiting for you also offers something to look forward to on those dreary mornings.

I recommend trying out an overnight oats recipe to kick-start your morning. Oats are loaded with fibre, vitamins and antioxidants. As a complex carbohydrate, your body takes longer to digest oats, leaving you feeling fuller and more energized throughout the day. Instant oatmeal is usually loaded with unnecessary sugars that will make you feel sluggish. Opt for a less processed variety for a maximum energy boost. Adding fruit, nuts and milk to your oats will enhance them into a well-rounded, satisfying meal. Here’s a template recipe inspired by Howie Fox, a blogger for
hurrythefoodup.com, that suggests what type of ingredients and how much you can add for a knockout bowl of overnight oats:

  • Half a cup of steel-cut or rolled oats
  • One cup of any type of milk
  • Two tablespoons of nuts or seeds
  • One teaspoon of any type of spice
  • One teaspoon of natural sweetener
  • A whole fruit
  • A handful of berries

I find almond milk soaks into oats really nicely, giving them a richer flavor while adding protein, vitamin E and calcium. Don’t hesitate to use nut butter instead of whole nuts as well. This can add a pleasant creaminess with the same amount of healthy fats. If you’re a chocolate lover, mix half a tablespoon of cocoa powder with your oats to satisfy your sweet tooth. Let the oats sit in the fridge overnight to puff up and develop a smooth, delicious texture.

To keep your momentum going for the rest of the day, dress warm to make outside more tolerable. The wait for the bus and walk across campus won’t kill your motivation and mood as much if you are bundled up. According to National Geographic, exposure to cold weather restricts bloodflow to our hands and feet, causing us to feel slower and sluggish. Wearing long johns, two pairs of socks and multiple long sleeved tops may not be very flattering but it will keep you comfortable and more inclined to carry through with your workout plans.

If you can’t ignite your desire to work out, try compromising with yourself. Santamaria suggests setting a smaller goal for the day, like going for a walk instead of a run, to at least get you moving. Once your endorphins start pumping, you may surprise yourself and work out longer and harder than you initially thought. Either way, it will ultimately feel good and lay the foundation for a more productive day. Livestrong.com explains that this is because exercise increases blood flow to the brain, making you more alert.

Working out also causes the brain to release serotonin — a neurotransmitter that helps perk emotions and mood. One of the best ways to colour a dreary winter day is to try something new and move your body in a new way. It challenges your muscles and is also refreshing for your mind.

Personal trainer Todd Durkin explains in Men’s Fitness that new forms of exercise force us to be fully immersed in the activity which reduces boredom and pessimism. Choosing a new fitness endeavor can also be empowering.  You can experiment with workouts that you previously avoided because you either dismissed them as not hard enough or were too intimidated by.

On campus, That Empty Space on the first floor of MacHall offers a free and dynamic yoga class on Wednesdays. Barre Body Studio on Bow Trail also offers a free ballet barre class every Saturday. Whether these activities are foreign or familiar to you, they could be a great, cost-effective way to revitalize yourself.

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