The temptation to hibernate on the sofa with a bowl of stodge starts creeping up around now and hits its peak in the bleakness of January: don’t let the winter sloth monster get to you. You can live a life without lethargy, and winter can be as sprightly and high spirited as summer if you give it the chance, you just need to work with it. This may or may not involve stripping off the onesie and putting on your trainers. That’s not our only suggestion, however…
Cut loose from your comfort zone
We’ll get the toughest one over with, as we’re only too familiar with the overwhelming urge to batten down the hatches against dark skies, rain and wind. The problem is, this also means you occasionally shut out life, fun times and mojo restoring opportunities to keep your fitness up. If there’s really is a blizzard blowing, do some HIIT at home with a little help from trainer Steve Mellor to get your heart rate up, but if you can bring yourself to brave the elements for a quick run or commute to the gym the change of scene will provide a bit of extra mood-boosting stimulation, and trying out new indoor workouts could mean that your fitness levels are even higher than they were in summer.
Get experimental and sign up something you’ve never tried, whether it’s martial arts, a dance class, indoor rock climbing or power yoga. If you want to go full on chalet girl, ice rinks and dry ski slopes can provide a warm but winter themed workout, albeit without the alpine backdrop and après ski (unless leisure centre slush puppies appeal). Whether you get adventurous or just stay consistent with workouts you love, making sure you get moving in the colder months is crucial. Just take it from the NHS…
“Winter weight gain isn’t just an urban myth. Research has shown most of us could gain around a pound (half a kilo) during the winter months. That may not sound like much, but over the course of a decade it can add up.”
“If you find it hard to get motivated to exercise in the chillier, darker months, focus on the positives- you’ll not only feel more energetic but you’ll also stave off that winter weight gain.”
Galvanising stuff, but do make sure you include an injury prevention warm up ; stiff, cold muscles need TLC before training, otherwise you’ll be couch bound against your free will (no fun). If it’s clothing that’s holding you back from working out during the winter, layer up with a few of our hot to trot/train AW fitness wear finds . The only thing that should be nippy is your running pace.
Reconsider comfort food
On the comfort front, puddings, pies and general carb fests come into their own when the weather caves in, but if you actually want to feel comfortable and full of energy rather than just...really full, perhaps give your winter comfort food a rethink. This is by no means a plea to ditch the Sunday roast or Christmas dinners, but do experiment with healthy alternatives that nourish your body rather than nuking your energy. Steak and chips, pizza and pasta are all on the menu, but tweaked for optimum health and mood boosting potential. Seeing as Christmas seems to start in October these days, having a satisfying swap for heavy festive meals up your sleeve will help you to thrive in the build up to the big day.
“When many of my clients first come to see me they drink one or several glasses of wine a night. It often starts as a way to relax then it becomes a habit and something to associate with unwinding for the night. So break that association and find another way to relax. Going forward, you can enjoy wine but set up a structure to avoid it becoming a nightly habit because it will take a toll on your body, waistline and energy levels. If you lead a busy social life then try alternating the nights you drink or choose two nights per week when you can drink.”
For days when you’re having a tipple, Amelia recommends ‘vodka, gin, red wine, mixers such as sparkling water, fresh citrus juice or naturally light Fever Tree tonic water”. Try to dodge 'beer, rum, sweet cocktails and sugary mixers' where possible.
If you’re aiming to avoid alcohol altogether, forgo fizzy drinks for ‘fizzy coconut water, sparkling water with fresh lime, lemon, orange, mint, rosemary, fruit or herb ice cubes, or try iced herbal teas.'
Eat for energy
This one seems obvious, but a life lead aboard a sugar rollercoaster is likely to leave you with an energy deficit at the end of the day, if not during it. Heed Amelia’s wisdom on upping your intake of good mood food instead:
“Several studies have found that eating certain foods really does make us happier. Researchers in New Zealand recently found that study participants who ate more vegetables and fruit reported feeling calmer and happier soon after eating them- this could be due to an improved blood sugar response but also due to bacteria, and such a change can happen within the space of a day. It’s not just fruit and vegetables that boost your mood; it’s eating well in general. By that I mean eating a good range of fruits, vegetables, meat or non-meat protein sources, seeds, nuts, oils and herbs, along with steering clear of processed foods. Think of processed foods as empty short-term energy and real foods as a life force.”
In particular, Amelia advocates adding the following to your shopping list for elevated energy and mood:
Healthy fats: “These include coconut oil, avocados, organic and free range eggs, wild salmon, olive oil, olives, milk and butter. They are well regarded as playing an important role in brain health.”
Dark green leafy vegetables: “These vegetables contain folate, which studies have found may reduce the symptoms of depression because folate is used by the brain to produce feel-good hormones like serotonin and dopamine. There are so many excellent sources to choose from including spinach, kale, chard, broccoli and cabbage.”
Oily fish: “Natural sources of polyunsaturated fatty acids are present in oily fish, which help to improve brain function and mood control. There is an established link between low levels of omega-3 fatty acids (found in oily fish and some nuts) and depression. The best oily fish are salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring and sardines.”
Broccoli and cauliflower: “These contain choline, a B vitamin essential for brain development and considered to boost brain function. Eggs and meat are also sources of choline.”
Walnuts: “These nuts are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids known to boost brain function.”
Blueberries: “These contain antioxidants that are regarded to be brain protective and can reduce oxidative stress.”
Let there be light
Repeatedly bashing the snooze button at this time of year comes naturally according to the NHS:
“As the days becomes shorter, your sleep and waking cycles become disrupted, leading to fatigue. Less sunlight means that your brain produces more of a hormone called melatonin, which makes you sleepy”.
Give melatonin less of a chance to dominate proceedings by maximising your exposure to light:
“Open your blinds or curtains as soon as you get up to let more sunlight into your home. Get outdoors in natural daylight as much as possible; even a brief lunchtime walk is beneficial, and make your work and home environment as light and airy as you can.”
Feeling drowsy doesn’t mean that we require unlimited lie-ins unfortunately:
“We don’t technically need any more sleep in winter than in summer. Aim for about eight hours of shuteye a night and try to stick to a reliable sleep schedule.”
If said schedule is evading you a bit, the following should help you to settle down for a good night’s rest…
Prioritise unwinding properly
There are times for a speedy 2-in-1 shampoo and ‘drive thru’ shower approach, but don’t rush the good stuff. Warming up, taking care of yourself and switching off from a stressful, frenetic day can only be overlooked so often. Storms and the like provide the perfect opportunity to stay in and ‘wash your hair’ so to speak, as ELEMIS co-founder and director of product and treatment development Noella Gabriel emphasises:
“I feel that nurturing is more important in the winter months. Try to make time to relax in a warm bath with your favourite bath oil, or perform an at home facial in the comfort of your own bathroom.”
If you’ve got a tub, you’re onto a winter winner:
“Baths are one of the best therapies we can perform, the problem we have is that we do not do enough of it. A shower is just no substitute though to the warming and softening effects that a bath can have on the body. After a bath, we’re so much more likely to experience a wonderful night’s sleep too.”
The Romans were clearly onto something with their bathing rituals…
“The steam is so beneficial, as the moisture and heat aids detoxification (keeping in mind that the skin is the largest eliminative organ of the body).”
“To prep before a bath, use a body brush to stimulate the circulation and warm the body, which in turn means that your body won’t be shocked by a temperature change. A good salt exfoliation beforehand is revitalizing too (we love the cult Frangipani Monoi Salt Glow , £36.50). Regular exfoliation, twice a week, helps to slough away dead skin cells and will keep skin responding and functioning at its peak throughout winter, keeping skin healthy and preventing it from looking dry and depleted.”