By Dan Staton MS, CSCS
The dark days of winter leave little time to enjoy daylight, in fact, some of us go to work in the dark and return home in the dark. This time of year slows down our adventure seeking with dwindling daylight and harsh weather. It’s super easy to go into hibernation this time of year gaining some unwanted pounds and becoming dormant. Inactivity is a quick recipe for overeating and storing fat rapidly. It may not seem like a big deal at the moment, but the older we get the easier it is to gain weight and the harder it is to lose. Here’s the quick and dirty way to fight off the ravishes of winter weight gain and keep your body tuned for the arrival of spring.
Once the season winds down, you have to pay more attention to the quality and quantity of foods that you put in your system. You’re not able to burn over 2,000 calories a day from hiking with a pack on chasing big game animals. If you have a sedentary job, which most of you do, you’re sitting in a car driving to work, staring at a computer monitor, and burning very little energy. You’re output is less so obviously your intake should be less. This does not mean skipping meals, in fact skipping meals can slow your metabolism down. Skipping meals can also cause overeating later in the day. So a steady intake throughout the day of balanced meals is the key to success. Make sure that there’s a protein source at each food encounter, a clean carbohydrate mainly from fruits and vegetables, and lastly a healthy fat source from nuts or seeds. The hierarchy of food choices is as follows:
Meats—Vegetables—Nuts—Seeds—Some Fruits—Little Starch—Zero Sugar
To ensure you are eating healthy, keep a detailed food journal. Write down everything you eat and drink. Be honest and accurate, otherwise the journal is worthless. The food journal will help you realize when poor food choices are made and keep you honest. Plus, it may keep you accountable to resisting all the holiday junk food that’s readily available.
Weight & Measure
Keeping a pulse on your weight is also an important component. Weigh yourself at most once a week. If possible, have your body fat tested once a month to insure that lean body mass is staying the same if not going up, while fat mass is decreasing. The scale alone, cannot give you this information. Another idea in regards to measurement is to track your circumference measurements of the neck, chest, waist, and hip. Make sure to measure the same landmarks for consistency and put those in your journal as well. Measurement equals motivation. Tracking this information can be very helpful and takes little time. You cannot manage what you do not measure.
I firmly believe that sweat should bead off your forehead daily. Whether it is for only five minutes or a few hours, it’s the principle of activity. Bottom line, big game animals don’t get a rest day or holiday – they can’t call in sick, and they have to hustle to survive. Break a sweat daily through a variety of exercise, don’t be married one exercise. I keep my hunting backpack loaded year round and next to the door, when I have a few extra minutes I can squeeze a short intense hike. Bring a headlight since chances are it will be dark when you have free time. You can also add pushups and situps into your TV time by busting out sets during commercials. Waking up before work to sweat matches what you’d be doing during hunting season so it’s a habit that’s strongly encouraged. You don’t have to get your physical activity in alone either, in fact I prefer everyone to train with their hunting partner. Use the camaraderie to bolster friendly competition, accountability, and add purpose to your final outcome — keeping the weight off.
Winter is the most difficult time of the year to keep weight off, the environment of short days and rough weather plummets motivation. Clearly define your goals for the winter, incorporate accountability and find others to work with on your goals. Let everyone know that you’re not going into hibernation this year and I promise spring will be around the corner before you know it. Winter fitness is really a chance for you to get a leg up on the hunting competition so separate yourself from the pack and fight the good fight.
About the Author:
Dan holds a Master’s degree in exercise physiology and owns/operates CrossFit Spokane Valley. He’s an avid bowhunter and CrossFit Games competitor.