Winter is a critical time for athletes to keep moving – it’s good for our bodies, our brains, our immunity and for a strong spring and summer season! But because of the added stress of exercising in the cold, and through a season when our bodies are searching for a natural pause in our activities, we have to move smart and employ a little winter wisdom to ensure we pop out on the other side of these cold months strong, healthy, injury free and ready to crush. Here are a few things I do to keep myself balanced through the coldest part of the year.
- Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is critical all year round, but particularly in the winter. Regardless of where you live in the world, our bodies use more calories and lose more moisture during the winter, especially when we’re exercising in the cold. Staying hydrated is important not only for sports performance, but also for general well-being. Digestive health, and the body’s ability to adequately buffer our systems from cold winter temperatures, are all tied directly to how well hydrated we are. (Read: if your tummy is upset, you’re getting a cold, or your muscles aren’t recovering quickly, check your hydration practices first.) Staying hydrated with warm liquids (that our bodies don’t have to then warm up to 98.6°F when we swallow them) is a surefire way to stay warmer, better hydrated and perform better all winter long!
I drink Ginger Mapleaid served hot on all my cold-weather adventures – it keeps my digestion amped through my activity, soothes my stomach when we’re skiing above treeline, and helps keep my core body temperature up. (Read: makes all the things I’m asking my bod to do EASIER.)
- Hot Stuff
Here’s some simple arithmetic to help navigate winter nutrition strategies:
COLD + COLD = MUCH COLD
HOT + COLD = WARM
We want our bodies to stay warm through the winter so they can keep doing all of the crucial jobs they MUST do. Then (and only then,) will we feel topped up and primed for winter performance. In plain language, this means skip the cold salads, cold smoothies, cooling cucumbers and non-seasonal vegetables and fruits, cold drinks, raw fruits and cold ice cream cakes until spring and summer, friends. Hot foods are so hot right now, and everything your body wants to eat. Plus, you’ll find that you’ll enjoy better digestion, faster recovery, better sleep and warmer extremities when you’re out in the cold.
What to eat? Soupy, warm, well-cooked meals of whole-grains, legumes, root veggies, cooked greens and stewed fruits, pungent spices, healthy fats and high-quality animal proteins and dairy products are the hot meal jam. This is the time of year to enjoy stacks of pancakes w/stewed fruits, drizzled with Untapped maple! Our bodies are looking to build through the winter. We need to give them the energy they need!
Here are some things I’m cooking on repeat this winter:
Spicy Chickpea Stew w/Quinoa + Tomato
Miso-Maple + Chia Oatmeal Bowls – topped with UnTapped!
- Tuning In
The sheer nature of this coldest season is a reminder that all life needs to slow down. Nature is taking its rest to recover from spring and summer, to build and bolster nutrients for the seasons ahead and it’s smart for us to align. Instead of keeping our summer-time pace through the winter, it’s wise to use this time to pause and weave in practices we have less time for when we’re out playing in the sun in the summer. I set aside a little time in the cold early hours to breathe and stretch each day; checking in with my body and brain ensure I’m not laying it on too thick. Winter is the time of year when I emphasize strength training (I built myself a little kettlebell studio in our garage!) and weave in extra long, luxurious yoga practices to keep my mobility high. Twisting exercises, forward folds, inversions, and postures that open the heart help to keep our circulatory and respiratory systems working smoothly, and help to offset the stagnant energy of winter. AND, taking extra rest days between big days of skiing, riding, hiking or running ensures we don’t pop into spring needing a rest from winter’s rest.
Lentine Alexis is a classically trained chef, cookbook author, lover of pure maple syrup, and former professional endurance athlete. Find out more at LentineAlexis.com.