Are you resilient enough to see out winter?
Winter is the time of the year when we are building up our training for a forthcoming marathon, Tough Mudder, or even a triathlon. It’s also often the time of the year when we feel least like training. None the less, there is work to be done, so here are our top tips for remaining resilient during the gloomy months.
1. Remember you’re a finite resource.
Let’s imagine you’ve mapped out twenty tough hours of training for your ironman this week. If you’re an accountant working until midnight because its year end, there’s going to be very little energy left in your ‘tank’ to cope with your training. This is the moment you need to get real. It’s always best to plan an event when you know you haven’t got a massively tough work schedule ahead. You may need to temporarily adapt you training according to last minute demands from the boss.
2. Debug the system.
Each time you are in the environment of other human beings you will also be joining their bacterial and viral environment. Nice. Maybe you have recently found that just about everyone in the office has a cough or cold?
How come some people lucky folk seem as though they’re coated in bug Telfon? Maybe they’ve discovered the miracle of hand gel. This is the time to develop a healthy – all be it- slightly obsessive love affair with one of those little squirty bottles. Every time you touch a tube hand rail, a lift button or stroke your fingers across one of those expensive Mac books in the apple store, you need to be applying this.
If you’ve shaken paws with a work colleague or another athlete, it’s time to get hand scrubbing! Try using some visual imagery here, (something a little bit disgusting works well, e.g. fox poo or a Saturday night pavement ‘takeaway delight). Got the picture in your mind’s eye? Imagine it thinly smeared over very surface you encounter. Yum. The reality is that we don’t breath in bugs, as much as we literally pick them up by touch. It’s time to debug and make yourself sniffle bomb-proof. It really works.
Yep it’s a no brainer that we need to get those Z’s in. But let’s face it, how often do you really get sufficient sleep? If you’re finding that you are having to lay in at the weekend way beyond your normal work day get up alarm time, chances are you’re big-time sleep deprived.
Very few of us have those “magic” Margaret Thatcher genes that permit us to get away with it endlessly on four hours a night. And you can’t buy them or hire someone to sleep for you.
Here’s a sad fact. If you get less than six hours per night, you’re likely to die prematurely. If that’s not a good enough reason to get to bed early, then remember that every extra hour kipping means better sporting performance. Yep you can literally sleep your way to the top.
We are all hopefully used to the concept of refuelling in a timely manner. This means getting some carbs and protein on-board within 20 minutes of finishing a hard training session. Vitamin D is something we should all think about improving upon. In the absence of sufficient winter light, it may be worthwhile considering supplementing your diet with a supplement such as ‘Dlux’. Alternatively, you have the perfect excuse to move to the Maldives.
So, what else could do with optimising? How about iron? Ferritin, as it’s known the medical world, is not only an important component in red blood cells, but it also has a direct effect on mitochondrial enzymes, our thyroid and neuro function, and lastly our immune function. Many of us are deficient in it.
The NHS level for ‘adequate’ ferritin is probably inadequate for active sports men and women. We’d like your levels to be nearer 100 units than 20. Red meat, dark leafy greens, beans and dried apricots are a great source. Adding in vitamin C foods will help you on-board iron even quicker. Floradix and Spatone are great natural over the counter supplements if you need a little assistance to top up. If you are not sure what your ferritin level is, maybe it’s time to get it checked?
5. Be merry.
It’s easy in these winter months to get a bit of a downer on yourself. Training schedules can be arduous. We may a tend to beat ourselves up if it’s not going so well, and we aren’t seeing progression, each and every time we go out. Give yourself a break! Remind yourself this is also about having fun as well as getting fit.
Reward yourself for those milestones that you set, and don’t forget to relax. For those of us ‘Type A’ folk who find the idea of relaxing a little stressful, try to introduce periods of your day when you are actively being mindful. You don’t have to be a vegan loving yoga freak to benefit from this.
If you love a little bit of tech, consider apps such as ‘Headspace’,’ Stop breath and think’,’ Welzen’ and ‘Calm’. All of these make meditation achievable on the tube and no one will even know what you are up to!
Winter training may be tough but pull on your emotional and physical armour so you can power through to spring. It’s around the corner. Honest.
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Dr Cath x