‘Chop wood, carry water’— Trainer offers tips for healthy winter
- Published: December 8, 2020
As the winter months approach, many Americans are thinking about how they’ll stay healthy and combat the “winter blues” once it turns cold — especially as the pandemic continues unabated. With that in mind, personal trainer Andrew Brody recently gave a talk to a dozen participants during the Senior Center’s weekly virtual “Lunch and Learn” event.
Brody, a personal trainer who works in occupational therapy at Grandview Medical Center in Dayton, has led a strength training class at the local Senior Center for the last two years. During his 40-minute talk, which participants listened to and interacted with via Zoom over lunch in their respective homes, Brody outlined three main principles to help seniors — and anyone — be mindful of their physical health during the colder months.
Eat and drink healthfully
Brody encouraged those in virtual attendance to try and build a winter diet focused around whole, unprocessed foods.
“For example, consider filling up with fruit,” he said, noting that processed fruit purees and juices don’t do the trick as well.
“You’ll feel full for longer if you eat whole foods,” he added.
Brody also suggested that, in order to be mindful of diet, participants consider keeping a food journal. Simply, this involves writing down everything consumed over a period of several days, and then looking back at it to evaluate habits.
“That self-evaluation might reveal that you should drink more water and eat less or more of this — and you can try to improve it,” Brody said.
He also urged participants to remember to stay hydrated, remarking that many seem to think that hydration isn’t as important in the colder months.
“People think you need to drink more water in summer — but you need just as much in winter, if not more,” he said. “You should get into the habit of drinking your water as much as you can, early in the day, before 5 p.m.”
With winter comes dry air, which Brody said could contribute to dryness in nasal passages. He also suggested that dry nasal passages might be more habitable to viruses.
“By keeping yourself well hydrated, you’re making that a less able environment for the transmission of a virus,” he said.
Stay rested — but not over-rested
Brody acknowledged that, with so many both living and working at home, the traditional patterns of activity and rest have been broken down to a certain extent for some people. Likewise, the coming of winter, when the days are short and the nights are long, has the capacity to confuse sleep cycles even further.
“Getting good sleep is not easy in winter due to light deprivation and the cold,” he said.
To keep sleep in check, Brody suggested establishing a regular sleep routine and following “sleep hygiene” methods — that is, not eating or exercising too close to bedtime, putting away screens and other electronic devices in advance of heading to bed and creating a dark and comfortable environment for sleep, among other things.
Likewise, he suggested that people avoid overindulging in rest.
“Undersleeping is a problem, sure, but so is oversleeping,” he said.
Exercise within limits
Finally, Brody said that perhaps the best way to beat the winter blues is to stay active — but how to do so in winter in the middle of the pandemic? He encouraged those attending to think outside the gym.
“You can exercise without any equipment by using what we call ‘body weight exercises’ — essentially, finding ways of using back, arms, legs and stomach against gravity,” he said.
Body weight exercises encompass things like lunges, squats and push-ups, and Brody recommended adding such exercises to one’s daily routine, even if limited to only several minutes a day.
“[Body weight exercises get] your blood pumping, gets a chemical rush in your body that sort of wakes up your brain and you end up releasing chemicals in your body that make you feel better — that’s important to keep the winter blues away,” he said.
All in all, Brody encouraged those listening to make the most of their time at home, and use it as an opportunity to reflect on and improve habits.
“I try to think positively about it as much as I can — it’s kind of like a big reset button,” he said.
He also encouraged everyone to be easy on themselves, limiting stress by focusing only on what they can personally do. He also referred to the concept of monotasking — that is, devoting one’s mind and body to only one thing at a time, as opposed to multitasking — as a good stress reliever.
“It’s a mindful way of doing things, and helps you get right in front of whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish,” he said. “It’s like the Zen saying: ‘Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.’”
The Senior Center holds its Lunch and Meet virtual events every Thursday at noon via Zoom; participants meet remotely to share lunch and listen to a guest speaker. The guest speakers for the next several weeks are as follows: Dec. 3, Leslie Edmund of Clem & Thyme Nutrition; Dec. 10, YSPD Chief Brian Carlson; Dec. 17, author and poet Artie Isaac. For more information, visit ysseniors.org.