Corinne Austin | Personal Training

Fighting Fit for Winter

Summer has gone – perhaps a little too quickly for my liking – and the familiar autumnal features of the post-summer period are gracing doorsteps.   And we know that this also means that Winter will be hot on little Autumns heels, following up the rear, encouraging us to embrace all the things that help us trudge through the coolest, darkest months of the year.


And with the onset of winter comes the anxiety and dread associated with catching winter chills and illnesses – some of which will be mild and manageable, whilst others will be severely draining and debilitating.  Bugs and sickness at this time of the year is almost a given, and will in turn affect a significant proportion of us.  But there are definitely things we can do to help our position and strengthen our defences.


So, what is my best tip for increasing immunity before we head into the depths of winter?  There are actually so many tips I could give here, because they each impact our body’s immunity and fighting power in some substantial way.  But if I had to narrow it down it would be rest, relaxation and sleep.


Why? Why have I chosen these factors?  During sleep we are our most powerful – it is our bodies given time to repair, regenerate, rejuvenate, and restore.  When we take away from our sleep we are taking away from our bodies immense ability to heal itself and remain strong and fighting fit.  The stressors we face day in and day out challenge our body’s vital systems and organs, and the only way we can recover from these stressors is via restorative amounts of sleep (more than 7 hours per night).  When we don’t allow our body this biologically-demanded restorative time our systems weaken and we more easily succumb to illness and disease.   Equally as important is down time i.e. rest and relaxation throughout our day – even a couple of breaks focussing on diaphragmatic breathing for 90 seconds a time can be enough to help our bodies.  Taking down time during the day enables our body to change from the debilitating and relentless sympathetic overload (the state of fight or flight) that we face as a result of our daily stressors and into our parasympathetic state (rest and digest) which is crucial in saving and enhancing our health.


So we know it’s important but how can we achieve this?  Prioritising rest time and sleep, especially during the months of April, May and June is the key to getting on top of things before winter is in its full throes.  This can mean switching off from work earlier in the evenings, booking less into our social calendars, scheduling in regular self-care time to unwind and disconnect, and creating a bedtime ritual which encourages great quality sleep.


How about our energy?  How can we boost our energy – which often seems to plummet – as we head towards Winter?  The answer lies in movement.  Any and all movement.  Moving regularly in ways that lift our heart rates, activate our muscles, make our bodies smile, and our enable moods to be lightened and uplifted.  Movement has an overwhelming ability to alter so many aspects of our body’s chemistry – and this is witnessed both physically and emotionally.  Movement is seriously underrated and underdone.  I’m talking all movement.  Not just that which we call exercise.  Being sedentary slows down and stalls so many of our essential physiological and biological processes, and essentially means we end up sitting in our own pool of lymphatic waste.  This makes us feel groggy and unenthused.  On the other hand, movement gets everything ticking and circulating again, it boosts our clarity and focus, energises us, and enhances our mood and motivation.


What’s the easiest way to get people moving?  Moving about often, finding ways we can fit movement in to our work days, and committing to movement modalities or extracurricular activities that we absolutely thrive on is key here.  Finding a buddy, neighbour, or work colleague who has similar intentions to us works wonders, or signing up for a fun run event or something you’ve never done before is great motivation too.  Choose happy movement, that which makes you smile and feel good – whatever that may be for you.  Don’t just do what works for the crowds – find your own joy and let it work for you.  And do it often.


And last but not least my top tip for maintaining overall good health throughout winter is about out-crowding processed foods with immune-boosting real foods – especially the plant based variety!  Why?  Food really and truly is our medicine.  Food has the power to add or subtract to our overall health, immunity and vitality.  By increasing our nutrient load via lots of plant-based foods, good quality proteins, and healthy fats, we have a supercharged matter of goodness right before our eyes (or in this case our mouths!).  The more real the food is, the less that it has been tampered with, the better it is for us.


What’s the best way to achieve this?  Consider all the great foods that you really like and bring more of these into your fridge or pantry.  By bringing in more of the good stuff we naturally crowd out the foods that we deem to be more in the realm of ‘empty calories’.  Find a clean food recipe book that resonates with you (Pete Evans, What the Fat, Petite Kitchen) and discover some fresh new recipe or snack ideas that you can easily create yourself.  Clean food is absolutely scrumptious – you just have to be sure to look in the right places for it.  And if ever in doubt, always count and consider nutrients, not calories.


So there we have it – three simple lifestyle-based and inexpensive tips to boost your immunity and vitality this winter.  By sleeping and resting well, moving often and in ways that make us happy, and eating good, clean, nutrient-rich foods we will be leaping and bounding our way through the winter months.  Start identifying a few things you could alter to help you be your most fighting fit self, and consider an action plan moving forward.  Your body will thank you.