How to stay TIPTOP this Winter

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My Great Manchester Run is 6 months away, and I’m sat staring at the rain pounding on my window pane. It’s December and I keep telling myself “once the weather’s better, I’ll go for that run”, but this is Britain, the best we can hope for is a light drizzle…

Winter training, it’s not only tough to endure, but to keep yourself fit, healthy and motivated. I know, I’ve experience it. For three Septembers in a row I’ve braved the North East’s wildness for the Great North Run, not to mention countless training sessions in my not so improved weather-wise home county of Lancashire.

It’s essential. No matter which discipline of track and field, precautions and keeping tiptop through the winter months can be the difference between 1st and 2nd, finishing or not finishing. So as the rain still continues to pour, I’ve opened up a document entitled “LEADS”, a five step strategy I followed way back before my first GNR, which considerably aided me through my most gruelling months, and with which a small amount of effort, can produce a remarkably uneventful winter training schedule, just follow my LEADS;

Liquids

As athletes we all know the importance of drinking fluids at regular intervals, whether before, during or after training. During winter we are 80% more likely to develop cold like symptoms, so milk, especially semi skimmed or skimmed, is a great source of protein, vitamins A and B12 (for brain and nervous system development) and an important source of calcium…as the little girl on the advert keeps pointing out “it helps make your bones go stronger”. Of course, sports drinks during your workouts maintains your blood glucose levels preventing damage to your immune system, crucial to battle off any of those winter bugs…

TOPTIP: Hot beverages can be a dark horse in keeping healthy during your winter training. Studies have shown that not only does it battle cold related symptoms but it can also trick the mind into thinking symptoms are less severe, due to the psychological soothing effects…

Exercise

Despite you aiming for that goal, exercising in the winter needs to be precautionary. According to studies, exercise, along with your diet, can be very good for reducing cold like symptoms, but reducing the intensity of your workouts is crucial. If symptoms occur, training outside can cause your nose and throat to be irritated, but if you feel no symptoms, be careful if basing your training around the gym. Machines and other gym users can pass on those nasty winter viruses…

TOPTIP:  Under NO circumstances should you exercise if your symptoms are fever like, sore joint based or involve the stomach. This can make the illness worse and even cause the virus to spread to the heart…

Amusements

This may seem a funny one, but during the winter changing your training habits can open your eyes to a new world of hobbies and activities. Adverse weather conditions such as ice and snow, as we all know, can put pay to most training sessions. But why not think outside the box, rather than lounging around frustrated at the thought of your sessions being ruined, try, for example, ice skating. It’s clearly a lower intensity workout, but nevertheless it’s a change to the routine, a possible motivational boost…

Diet

Obviously, we all know how important as athletes our diet is in training and the build up to events. But nutritional value of food is much more crucial into the winter months, to keep that immune system functioning efficiently. Many of you will think, especially at this time of year that dieting or reducing your calorie intake will be beneficial in terms of becoming leaner…don’t be too hasty. Studies show that losing weight by dieting, only after a few weeks, can lead to decrease in immune cell function, resulting in that dreaded winter cold or flu. This is where our vitamins and minerals come in. These aid in reproducing immune cells, hugely beneficial in fighting off those winter bugs and infections. Vitamin C especially (through fruit, fruit juices and vegetables), a few weeks before and after an event, can give a real boost. So remember if you’re craving that chocolate, head for a Satsuma, Clementine or dried fruits such as raisins or dates instead…

TOPTIP: It may sound boring, but eating a bowl of porridge every morning in the winter months, can give you that boost of starch and fibre, crucial for making you feel fuller for longer…even add dried or fresh fruit to keep it interesting and to help towards that five a day…

Snoozing

According to Jessica Alexander from the Sleep Council, we sleep six and a half hours on average per night. According to research, seven to nine hours is our recommended period of sleep for optimum health and wellbeing. However, during winter, when those longer nights draw in, our natural instincts are to sleep more and use time lost during the rest of the year to catch up. According to personal trainer Nick Anderson, the longer you sleep the greater the increase in growth hormones released into the body, promoting immunity. In addition, from this, studies and scientists have shown that people who slept more than eight hours are three times more likely to not become sick than those who slept seven hours…

TOPTIP: Why not save getting up early, and swap those morning training sessions for evening ones…

You know what? Think I might just go for that run now…..