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Bess

Winter means gentle snowfall, roasting chestnuts around the fireplace + children laughing with their little sleds in pompoms and mittens… right? Maybe somewhere that happens, but right here it is feeling a bit more like cold + damp feet, sniffing noses + a bit too much red wine on Friday (or every!?) night… I have always found winter tough and I would preferably hibernate the whole season through. My health, desire to move + food choices can deteriorate during the colder months. I definitely thrive in the summertime and maybe you are the same. I have had to learn for myself (and also as a health professional) ways to get through winter with glowing health, not just surviving until the first sign of the Pohutukawa. Here are some quick nutrition + health tips to help you stay on top of your health this winter:

Plan your attack.
It’s pretty difficult to stick to a plan when you don’t have one. There are enough distractions in life to throw you off: chocolate around the office, last minute 5pm drinks, Saturday brunch. Why not plan your meals and at the same time, plan your exercise for the week? Sounds simple, but if you plan 100% + achieve 80% then you’ve just taken a big step towards a healthier you. I would suggest that is a pretty darn good reason to take the time to plan, purchase + make food ahead for the week.

Tighten up home + snacks.
I try to make sure that 80% of my food is as homemade, fresh + plant-based as I can. When I say that, I’m not trying to be pretentious. I just look in the fridge, figure out when I can get to the grocery store, start my meals with vegetables and build in protein, fat + flavour from there. This way, when I do go out for social food or drinks, it’s more of a treat because I haven’t allowed constant high energy foods + alcohol to become my norm. Be mindful where it matters.

Bulk up on Vitamin C, typical.
We think Vitamin C when we think ‘winter health.’ Well, Vitamin C is a powerful superhero. It can protect against immune system deficiencies (very important against attacking colds + viruses), at the same time Vitamin C can help heal wounds: we need this vitamin for growth and repair. Vitamin C cannot be stored in the body, hence the ongoing need for it in our diet. A powerful antioxidant that can protect your cells from ongoing damage. Vitamin C can support adrenal function by increasing your metabolic energy AND decrease elevated stress hormones. Not bad hey? Whilst eating those zesty little orange pills tastes awesome + reminds me of my childhood, one can EASILY get enough Vitamin C from the diet… Citrus fruit, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kiwifruit, capsicum. Smash these daily to get your kick.

GARLIC.
garlicFirst factor: you won’t be getting many kisses if you follow this, meaning you won’t receive any of those nasty germs floating around. Not sure if that is a win or a loss actually. Second factor: allicin is a compound found in garlic that is found to have antiviral + antibacterial properties. Allicin also increases natural killer cells in the body that go around destroying pathogens. Garlic is a great defense to attacks on your immune system, especially when eaten raw. So that first factor might come into play even more so now…

Challenge yourself + also high five yourself.
The health you desire will not come overnight if you haven’t kept on top of it. And that’s okay. Start now. Have a goal or two. Maybe it’s a 4-8 week goal or one simple regime you will stick to. Maybe removal of a certain food for the addition of a healthful one. Applaud your achievements + get a supportive person to get alongside you. We have pretty full lives these days – busy is the new cool. But really, you will likely do so much better physically, financially, emotionally + socially if you take care of your body. Not selfishly, but so your wellness + strength is a tool.

Have a selection of HEALTHY comfort foods.
tomyumsoupThis is my favourite, probably because I just love food. I have a few comfort foods that I turn to that are nourishing, warm, tasty + filling. And they don’t drip with cheese, oil or sugar icing. Write your own list – here’s one of my winter favourites Tom Yum Soup, to get you started.

Alcohol – DARE TO TAKE ON DRY JULY.
Don’t skip over this one! Even I am hesitant to write it because I do not want to be a hypocrite. Your liver does so much overtime work when you constantly pour alcohol through it. It draws water from other body systems to do so. Alcohol leaves you sluggish, tired + saps your vitality. I find this especially noticeable in winter when a few too many red wines by the heater take place. Nice temporarily, but I challenge you to take up the challenge of Dry July. You might find an upsurge in energy, an easier weight loss + more dollars left at the end of the month too.

I’ll do it if you do it.

Find movement you LOVE.
DR danceIn summer I love to swim, run, paddle board + frolic in the fields, but in winter I am more similar to a slothful bear. What happened? Outside becomes a lot less pleasant to be out in + our bodies are colder – they need more motivation to move (don’t insert the logical “but your body will warm up” answer here please). Nights come quicker, mornings brighten later. So for all these excuses, find a movement you love. I love dancing – an indoor activity! Barre, yoga, pilates, gyms, exercise classes + dance classes are EVERYWHERE. You can often just do a 3-month membership at many health clubs. Maybe you are still keen to run, but need the motivation: grab a friend to exercise with (there’s a cafe on every corner if you need a hot drink afterwards) or sign up for Run Squad with Stu Ross (no, I am not being paid to mention this!). We always think “let’s get fit for summer”, but why not stay fit all year round? Your mind + body will thank you. Dopamine + serotonin levels are increased with blood pumping exercise; don’t let winter depression beat you. I just did a 60min barre cardio workout. I wanted to die, my face was so red, but gosh I feel like I can sucker punch this day with a smile on my face.

These are just simple tips, but when you put them together they become a solid resource kit for you to keep well over the winter.

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Stu
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So I’m sitting down to my lunch of  ‘Southern spiced chicken, pickled slaw, salad and vegetables’ (yum!) while I write this. It is just under two weeks out from Ironman NZ, Taupo. This will be the penultimate chapter in the last 9 months of preparation for a race that I swore 5 years ago I would never do! To give you some insight, let me take you back five years to my ‘pre-triathlon days’.

I had recently returned from a five year stint living in the UK and Ireland. I was 10kg heavier, lacking in vitamin D, severely lacking in any form of exercise regime. It was early March 2011 and I was contracted as a physio to Ironman NZ for the lead up to race day. This involved an injury assessment service, strapping ankles and feet, massage, and stroking athletes’ egos in the lead-up to their big day. Essentially this came in the form of telling each person, no matter how severe  or how insubstantial their injury, that they would be okay on race day! During race day, my time was spent inside transition between the swim/ bike and the bike/ run helping athletes change their clothes, handing out transition bags and tending to various injuries. It was a cold day out there, raining and windy. Athletes were coming in from the swim and bike with mild signs of hypothermia. At the time, it reminded me of a scene from a zombie apocalypse movie! People with cuts and grazes, white skin, slowly moving and looking for food… or just collapsing on the floor. I thought to myself at the time, I will never do ‘one of these’, who would want to put themselves through this?! Even the look of absolute relief and elation as people crossed the finish line some 10-17 hours later wasn’t enough to inspire me.

So, obviously the next question is, how did I get from ‘I’m not doing an Ironman… EVER!’ to sitting down and writing this article pre the big day? It was Christmas five years ago at our family beach house on the Coromandel. The family has just sat down to swap presents before the big Christmas feast! I get a shoe box sized gift from my sister, a pair of shoes I think. As I unwrap the gift and open the box I realize that this is not a pair of shoes… a small piece of paper rests in the bottom of the box… uh oh! I unfold the paper and read what is written on it…  It’s an entry to my first sprint distance triathlon! My immediate thoughts are… I haven’t swum more than 50 metres since I was a child at the Manurewa pools. I’m going to have to start swimming. More than that – I’m going to have to be able to swim 500 metres in three months time! So this was the seed planted 5 years ago thanks to my little sis, which slowly grew into a much bigger and time-consuming ‘redwood tree’ sized goal…  Ironman! To be continued….
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