When the sun shines we have an abundance of energy, and the thought of getting fit doesn’t seem quite as taxing. Yet once the cold weather arrives we find it tough to get motivated, we feel grumpy and unfit. Let’s face it, the winter has an effect on us and our workout attempts. Here are some reasons why. They all contain solutions:
1. Sore achy muscles: Cold weather causes muscles to contract in order to keep you warm. As a result muscles, joints and ligaments are tighter. Add an intense workout that further constricts muscle fibers and you may notice your body aches much longer after a workout.
Solution: because your muscles are constricted, a longer warm up is needed to get your muscles loosened up. Extend your warm up from your normal 5 minutes to a longer 10 minute period. Increase your cool down to 10 minutes as well. Some studies have indicated that a longer cool down will reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) caused by exercise. While DOMS isn’t the main culprit for your winter aches, having one less source of body discomfort is something to look forward to.
2. Lack of flexibility: the same cold weather that constricts your muscles, causing them to ache , also causes a lack of flexibility. In other words, you’re not as flexible as you were in the summer. While a lack of flexibility may seem more like an annoyance, it reduces your range of motion and increases the probability of injury during a workout.
Solution: Try hot yoga. The heat loosens sore muscles and soothes your aching body. Gentle yoga that asks you to hold poses for longer will increase your flexibility. The warmth coupled with diaphragmatic breathing will decrease stress, allowing tense muscles to relax and regain movement.
3. Metabolism slows down: In the winter we feel hungrier, we feel more fatigued, and so we automatically assume our body is working twice as hard to keep us warm. Unfortunately the opposite is true. When we’re exposed to cold temperatures our metabolism slows down to conserve energy and heat.
Solution: Don’t get fooled into eating more calories. Choose a variety of hot teas when you want an extra snack. Make hot and soothing vegetable soups or purees. The nutrients will give you a boost of energy and the calories remain low. Do weight training at least 2-3 times a week. Lean muscle increases your metabolism. This time it won’t be an illusion.
4. Arthritis symptoms get worse: although some experts believe this is due to barometric pressure others believe it is our nerves and blood vessels that constrict in winter and amplify our sensations of pain. Either way, arthritis symptoms tend to get worse in colder weather.
Solution: Move anyways. Movement begins to dilate your blood vessels. It also increases synovial fluid in the joints allowing the joints to be more mobile. Although your may not notice an immediate pain relief, over time studies have demonstrated that increased activity reduces symptoms of arthritis and increases joint mobility. If the pain is too unbearable choose low to no impact activities. Aqua-fit in therapeutic pools offers a warm environment that alleviates all pressure on your joints.
5. Energy levels drop: with less hours of light in our day we feel fatigued quicker, thanks to a change in two important energy regulating hormones, Serotonin and Melatonin. Serotonin levels rise when we’re exposed to the sun, increasing our energy, making us feel happy and reducing our appetite. As the seasons change, less sunlight lowers our Serotonin, making us feel lethargic, hungry and down. While Serotonin levels decrease with less sun Melatonin levels rise which causes us to feel sleepy.
Solution: Exercise outdoors during daylight hours. Whether or not the sun looks farther away we still benefit from its rays. Not only does the sun increase Serotonin levels but the exercise increases them as well. By exercising outside we’re exposed to light that reduces our Melatonin levels as well. Get a walk in daily and see how it affects your energy.
6. Increase in asthma attacks: When the cold air gets in our lungs our air passages constrict, causing more asthma attacks than in summer months. Couple that with dry winter air and asthma symptoms worsen.
Solution: Don’t be afraid to exercise outside. Cover your nose and mouth with a scarf or balaclava. This will keep the air moist. Of course you’ll bring an inhaler just in case you suffer an attack, but if your symptoms are minor, try to wait at least 10 minutes. After 10 minutes of exercise the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and epinephrine begin to rise. Much like the epinephrine found in most asthma inhalers, the neurotransmitter expands your lungs. Waiting out minor symptoms for 10 minutes allows your body to use its natural source of epinephrine and saves you the need to waste a puff.
Has Your workout been impacted by the weather?