Ways to Stay Happy & Healthy During Shoulder Season
It’s that time of the year again where we must make the unfortunate transition from active summer days to the manic winter months. It’s important we keep the momentum flowing during the sleepy dead (or shoulder) season to ensure our bodies and minds are fit and raring to go for that glorious first day of snow.
Many people use this time to escape and grasp at the last seams of the summer (often somewhere warm in Central America) but that isn’t an option for everyone due to family, financial or work constraints. This doesn’t mean we have to admit defeat, batten down the hatches and hibernate in front Netflix until the mountain finally opens.
There are many ways of keeping your health in check despite being shorn of the much loved activities of summer and winter. Though for some this time period may come as welcome respite from their super active lifestyles and allow them time to fully heal those niggling injuries that they endured to make the most of the summer months. Here are some ways to stay fit and focused during the dead season.
I have had many minor injuries that have never fully healed, mainly because they weren’t serious enough to stop me doing the things I love to do. The mild discomfort is nothing compared to the despair of not being able to ski for two weeks or spend the summer playing soccer, so I pushed through and eventually learned to live with the pain. These few months are an ideal time to let those issues fully heal with a mixture of gentle exercise, stretching and a diet high in healing foods.
Cherries: Whether you are injured or have just put a large amount of stress on your muscles after a long workout, berries of all kinds can speed up recovery time.
Inflammation is the body’s response to injury and whilst it is necessary for recovery it can linger on and cause pain itself. Diets high with inflammatory foods dramatically slow down the healing process. Luckily all berries are high in anti-inflammatory properties with cherries in particular becoming a secret weapon for runners and cyclists. Cherries are so effective that in some cases they have even been used as a healthy alternative to Ibuprofen to reduce muscle soreness.
Turmeric: Another superfood that is great at reducing inflammation is Turmeric. Turmeric has a whole host of beneficial properties thanks to the yellow pigment in it called curcumin. It is amazingly effective for arthritis and muscle sprains in particular. It is also helpful in speeding up the healing of wounds. This should be a staple in any homemade curry, but if you are not keen on the taste add a spoonful of it to a smoothie but make sure to add a sprinkle of black pepper as it massively increases your bodies ability to absorb the healthy benefits of turmeric.
Flax Seeds: After intense exercise your muscles need the right fuel to rebuild themselves and healthy fats are essential for this. Flax seeds are an extremely nutrient dense food. Adding these seeds to your diet will increase your Omega 3 intake, especially if you follow a plant based diet. They are also a great source of protein which is important if you are attempting to build muscles. Sprinkle them on top of your salad, cereal or your morning smoothie.
Whilst the mountain no longer has the right conditions for biking that doesn’t mean you have to lock it up for the winter. The Valley Trails and highways are still safe enough for a commute to work or a journey to your friend’s house. Whilst this may seem obvious, many people still opt to walk or get a bus over a bike. Whilst a brisk walk is advisable over bussing, the hilly landscape of Whistler means you are more likely to push your cardiovascular system whilst putting less stress on your joints than a brisk walk or run would. By incorporating cycling into your work commute it allows you to fit more physical activity into your life without having to dramatically alter your schedule. If your workout schedule is already full it gives you an extra 20-30 minutes of exercise in a day to top up your other activities be it, gym time, swimming or running. But remember to dress in high visibility clothing if cycling at nightas those days are getting shorter all the time. If nothing else it can help you raise your daily intake of vitamin D before we have to wrap up our bodies for the winter. Speaking of which…
Autumn in BC is notorious for the endless amounts of rain. Even for those brave enough to venture out in this cold and wet climate, the chances of getting your recommended amount of vitamin D are highly unlikely. Vitamin D (the nutrient you get from sun exposure) is essential for the immune system, energy levels, mood regulation and skin and bone health. Even if only one of these is affected it could highly impact your ski season. Your immune system needs to be in tip top condition given that Whistler is a bit of a hot spot for viral infections. You need to have energy to optimize your rare days off, it will be much harder getting through those double and triple shifts if you have a low mood and the last thing you want is any broken bones that could end the season for you. This is why it is vital to supplement if you feel you could be at risk of low vitamin D. Luckily it is easy to correct as all pharmacists stock it and you can get for as little as $10 in most places.
Whilst most people enjoy a sauna session after a workout, few people know how the benefits of the sauna extend much further than relaxation. Prolonged heat exposure relaxes muscles and increases blood circulation. This increased blood flow speeds up the healing process by delivering nutrients and oxygen to affected areas. This also causes your heart rate to raise as it has to work harder to pump the blood around the body which means you get similar benefits to cardiovascular exercise without having to put stress on the rest of your body. Another benefit of this increased blood flow is the release of endorphins (the body’s feel good chemical) which can improve mood in a similar way to that of exercise (sometimes known as runners high). Lastly, we all know how relaxing sitting in a sauna is, but if you do it just before bed your body will have to adjust it’s temperature, this cooling down process will allow your body to slip into a deep sleep much easier and as you will have eased any headaches, muscle or joint pain, you are less likely to be disturbed during the night.
By Niall Lawlor