So here we are at the dawn of a new season, and as the cold weather continues to come in quickly here in Colorado, more and more people are beginning to consider what to do indoors to stay fit. I’ve personally had a number of people that I work with consistently begin asking, “Is it ok to take spin class 3 days a week since I can’t ride outside as frequently?” Or things like, “It’s getting to cold to hike, should I take Crossfit classes?” Let me begin by saying it is NEVER a good idea to take Crossfit classes. Unless of course you are intentionally trying to injure yourself, in which case it’s a fabulous idea. What I’m noticing these days is that people are feeling that they need to find something indoors to do all winter that matches or exceeds the intensity that they put themselves through outdoors all spring, summer and fall.
This is a dangerous mindset if we’re looking at the long term ramifications on our bodies. I’ve actually been surprised lately to hear and see people “wising up” a bit and realizing things like Crossfit and Insanity and P90X, are just stupid ways to injure yourself. It seems like folks are turning to more intelligent fitness programs similar to what we teach at Functional Fitness in Boulder, Colorado. Two highly competent teenage athletes that I’ve worked with for years recently sustained injuries from high intensity sports, exercises, etc. My point is that now is probably the perfect time for everyone to sit back and relax and take your foot off the gas for a minute. Just because you can’t do your favorite hobby or activity outside, doesn’t mean you have to be indoors trying to kill yourself.
Personally I enjoy the periods of time where I can back off on exercise intensity and focus more on “restorative” practices. Coming into basketball season, I began playing more hoops at my local gym recently and not punishing myself with strength training. My body certainly appreciates the difference. If you enjoy hiking outdoors, a great alternative is to do treadmill climbs indoors with a format that almost resembles interval training. It is certainly much easier on your joints and will undoubtedly increase your anaerobic threshold as well. Especially in Boulder, Colorado where the theme is always “go hard all the time”, these suggestions will most likely fall on deaf ears. But for those that take an intelligent approach to fitness and exercise, we know it is actually healthy to back off of your typical intensity levels from time to time in favor of focusing on more rest and recovery. I’m shocked at how many people recently got ill when the first initial wave of cold/flu symptoms rushed through town. Odds are good people haven’t rebounded fully from their illness and built themselves back up immunity wise. That makes the notion of going hard with exercise and creating even more stress on your body very foolish. In fact I’d bet you’re setting yourself up to get ill again this season. Maybe much worse.
As our internal body processes are adjusting to the change in climate, give your body a fair chance to recover from all the hard work you’ve put in all spring, summer and fall. I see many people becoming dehydrated because we run the furnace now on those cold nights and our cells dry out faster as a result. That certainly needs to be monitored daily. Also we cannot keep our adrenals under constant stress from life and high intensity exercise and expect to sleep soundly and repair efficiently, meeting all of life’s demands day in and day out. What I’m seeking for is a collective consciousness in the fitness community that we all are “allowed” to take periods of time off and nourish our bodies and minds when it’s necessary instead of revving the engine in its highest gear constantly. I find that changes of season are the most optimal time to make adjustments in our lives and in our daily programs.
Imagine if you began focusing on a little more sleep every day, perhaps a meditation class or weekly yoga practice to counter life’s external stressors. If you put more attention into clean, healthy nutrition instead of high intensity exercise, do you think you’d feel horrible? When we shift our emphasis back to what we truly need instead of constantly pursuing only our physical goals, we generally end up feeling better energetically and more grounded and present daily. Explain to me how this is a bad thing, please? It’s quite evident that we’re getting really good at running ourselves into the ground and breaking our bodies. How good are we at restoring ourselves and systematically repairing from all the stress we’re under daily?
My challenge to everyone is to “downshift” this season and see if you feel better, which in turn will uplift your spirits and make you present a better “self” to the world. Now is the appropriate time to modify or adjust your gameplan in favor of coming into next year feeling great and inspired. For further information or help with this procedure, please check out www.functionalfitnessusa.com and see why our approach to health and fitness and wellness is just better than the rest. Thank you. Rich O’Neill.