As the Antipodean winter well and truly begins to bite, everything can seem that little bit harder and less fun.
You know this time of year only too well and you don’t particularly like it. Skipping out of bed for a 6am beach training session at 11 degrees becomes a very different proposition to when it’s a balmy 16 degrees. The work-year seems to finally be kicking in with a vengeance, keeping you back at the office until some ungodly hour (like 5.30pm). Masterchef is back on TV. Yep, winter is here, alright.
So here are some of the key things I’m doing to keep my body and mind on track and avoid a descent into seasonal negative nelly-dom.
1. Practise gratitude
This is a great habit to develop and comes more naturally to some than others; some lucky souls do it without thinking whilst others have to work a little harder at it.
In today’s society, with so much information coming at us constantly through so many mediums, it’s easy to get caught up in what you don’t have but should, what you should’ve done but haven’t, and what you should’ve got but don’t yet.
The fact is, as a younger person in a developed society we are amongst the luckiest 2% of people on the planet. We have shelter, we have food, we have clothes, we have healthcare, we have smartphones, we have mind-altering concoctions literally forced upon us from an early age. When contrasted with the millions and millions of people who don’t have any of those things (apart from maybe smartphones), it’s easy to call us whingers. Big time.
But the principal of relative deprivation makes it hard for us to form impressions of ourselves based on a global scale, instead leaving us to compare ourselves to people in the same boat as us. This, if you live in affluent areas of cities like Sydney, London or New York, can leave you harbouring feelings of inferiority, as if you’re never going to make it.
To this end, if ever I find myself wallowing in puddles of self-pity, I make a play for one of my happy places (either the Coogee dog park or Centennial Park in Sydney). Here I can spend some quality time practising being thankful for all of the good things in my life. Being outside for this really allows me to appreciate my insignificance in the greater scheme of things, whilst, at the same time, focusing on what really matters to me.
[P.S. Don’t hate me for the ‘happy place’ incident. It won’t happen again.]
2. Drink more water first-thing
As I tip this is as old as the hills but that still doesn’t make it any easier to stick to. To make sure I do it, I go to bed with a full bottle of water by my bed. Sometimes I’ll take a few sips during the night. Whatever is left in the morning I drink up before I do anything else. Some people recommend lemon in the water but I’m too lazy to go to the kitchen. The act of sleeping is majorly dehydrating. This stems the tide.
3. Walk and breathe in the morning
I love to exercise in the morning. It really is the best way to start the day. But, as the years go by, I’m starting to feel more and more sluggish first-thing. This especially applies in winter. So, if I know I have a tough training session later in the day, I’m not going to kill myself getting out of bed at 5.15am. Well not every day, anyway.
I do want to get my body moving, though. And I have a dog. So walking the dog, as briskly as he’ll allow, is a great way to wake up my body and my mind. Whilst I’m about it, I do some breathing exercises. This usually consists of four shallow breaths in through the nose, followed by four sharp exhalations out through the mouth. For five minutes.
This technique came from Tony Robbins and I like it because it jolts me awake from that lethargy that sometimes lingers long after you’ve woken up. It brings a real focus and clarity to the day ahead and because I’m completely focused on my breathing there is no scope to dwell on insignificant stuff.
4. Exercise at lunchtimes
Winter lunchtimes are perfect for exercising: (slightly) fewer tourists about; perfect temperature; clear blue skies. But in the morning rush, one thing that often gets left behind is my gym bag. I know – it’s up there with the dog eating my homework as a lame excuse. But it happens.
My ingenious trick to counter this malady? I pack my gym bag the night before so I can simply grab it on the way out the door. Yes, that’s right. The. Night. Before. Remember where you got this tip – it’s pure gold.
5. Enter sports events
Motivation can be hard to come by in the bleak midwinter. The idea of going for an early morning run can be about as enticing as a trip to the dentist. However, when a race or event looms large on your calendar, those biting early starts suddenly seem that much more tolerable. Funny, huh?
I’m always insanely jealous of those doughty campaigners for whom running is simply a way of life. They train all year round as if they’re training for a marathon. Invariably it’s because THEY ARE. Alas, I’m not one of them. I need something in the calendar with the potential to embarrass me to get my sorry ass out of bed to run.
6. BONUS TIP: Go green in the morning
I’m rehashing an old tip here (see this post for more lifestyle hacks) but it’s more necessary than ever during winter. Green smoothies for breakfast. Wheatgrass for mid-morning. Spinach cooler at weekends. Whatever blows your hair back. The greens alkalise your body and fill you with vitamins and minerals to keep colds and man-flus at bay. I’ve suddenly realised that kale in a smoothie tastes horrible and am using spinach, celery, cucumber, apple and banana as my base now. Kale is reserved for my ‘signature’ kale elixir (which has been known to contain vodka in my pre-sobriety days).