Q:I'm very active and energetic in the warm months, but I have a hard time keeping it up in the winter. What would you suggest?
-Sue R., New York
A: You're not alone. Most of us find that it's easier to exercise and eat healthy during the spring and summer. Thanks to the warm weather and abundant daylight, we're drawn to spend more time outside and less time hunkered down indoors. Plus, it's easier to eat healthy in the summer when there is so much wonderful produce in season!
Wouldn't it be great if we were only drawn to health-promoting foods and easily able to prioritize the time it takes to engage in self-care? Unfortunately, that's not the case-it takes a little work to stay healthy. But with some planning and effort, you can develop a healthy winter routine.
Back to Basics
Start your mornings off with a few stretches, a good skin brushing, a shower, and a fresh smoothie. Pack yourself a healthy lunch. Walk vigorously during your lunch break, go to the gym after work, and/or try doing Kegels or other physical therapy exercises throughout the day.
In the evening, slow down long enough to prepare a healthy dinner and eat it calmly. Plan your menus ahead, and make time to shop for produce two to three times per week. Keep your pantry stocked with staples that can form the basis of a healthy meal: onions, olive oil, vinegar, spices, lemons, brown rice, soup stocks, legumes, sardines, and canned tomatoes.
At night, develop a bedtime routine that includes push-ups, sit-ups, and squats, as well as thorough dental hygiene. Stay off the computer for at least an hour before bedtime. And go to bed early enough to get eight hours of sleep.
Just like children, adults generally thrive with the right balance of routine and surprise. Of course, the nature of surprises is that we can't control them. Routine, on the other hand, is a little more reliable. I'm a big fan of health-promoting routines that help maximize our life experience. We can't do as much-or enjoy it as much-if we're tired or in pain. Here are two of my favorite routines to keep the summer glow going:
1. The body needs to move. Get in the habit of stretching and skin brushing in the morning. Find a long-handled brush. My favorite brands are Yerba Prima and Bass. Brush your whole body, including your soles and palms, with long strokes toward the heart. As the largest organ of elimination, your skin sheds its outer layer constantly. You can help this process along with dry skin brushing.
After brushing your skin, engage in a brief stretch routine that catches all the major muscle groups: quads and hamstrings, abdominal muscles, biceps, and triceps. Or if you prefer yoga, do three to eight leisurely Sun Salutes. Beyond this, try to get 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise weekly.
2. Be good to yourself. Organize your day with care and consideration for your comfort, safety, and potential for growth. Taking the high road is always a bit more work, but infinitely more satisfying. One useful "routine" is to be nice to everyone you encounter (unless they are completely misbehaving) during the course of the day-whether in person, on the phone, or in an email.
Emily A. Kane, ND, LAc, has a private practice in Juneau, Alaska, where she lives with her husband and daughter. She is the author of two books on health, including Managing Menopause Naturally. Visit her online at dremilykane.com.