Shaping Up

New Year, New You? The Reality Doesn't Have to be a Struggle

By Karen Gardner | Posted on 01.20.18 – Feature, Lifestyles

It’s dark. It’s cold. You don’t want to venture outside. It’s easier to stay under the covers, or wrapped in a blanket on the couch. But your brain is telling you to get a little exercise, to work off that slight holiday bulge.

“The hardest part about getting started is getting out the door,” says Mark Lawrence, a local running and walking coach.

And you don’t have to. There are plenty of indoor options to staying healthy in the new year. Go bowling. Go to a gym. Download a yoga or exercise video on your phone or tablet. Cook a healthy meal. You don’t need to lift a lot of weights, run marathons or eat like a bird to improve your health. Take small steps. Get outside, just a little, and you may find yourself craving more time out in the cold.

And what better time to find simple ways to improve your health than in January, when social obligations drop off and we have more indoor time to consider what we can do.

Here are 10 easy ways to get to better health in 2018:

GET IN A WALK

“Getting out and walking is great, but it depends on how you approach it,” says Lawrence, a certified Chi Walking and Running coach. “I’m going to do it briskly, as opposed to a leisurely walk. If you want to improve your fitness, you want to get your heart rate elevated. Move at a quicker cadence.”

Lawrence actually teaches people to walk, moving beyond the concept of putting one foot in front of the other, in the Chi method, developed by Danny Dreyer of Asheville, N.C. “Start with a nice, upright posture,” he says. “You think first about moving your center of gravity, that part of your body just below your navel, the center of your core.”

Move your core, and your feet will follow. “It changes the nature of your movement,” he says. The legs are no longer doing much of the work. The core, typically the strongest part of the body, is doing the heavy lifting.

A brisk walk also warms you up. If you get a chance to walk during daylight, your brain will get a dose of natural light, which boosts mood. If you have a dog, all the better. Dogs need to be walked, and if that’s what gets you outside, then go with it.

This is the best time of year to explore local parks. Whether it’s the Appalachian Trail, the C&O Canal, Gambrill State Park, Monocacy National Battlefield or Catoctin Mountain Park, you’ll encounter few visitors and, just maybe, some spectacular views.

TAKE A JOG

Lawrence is also a member of the board of directors of the Frederick Steeplechasers. In order to jog, he takes participants in his Chi Running class through the basics of walking. Using your core when walking helps runners depend more on their core, thus saving wear and tear on the knees, hips and feet.

Keep that nice, upright posture, take a few running steps, and walk when you feel winded. Before you know it, you’ll be jogging farther and farther. And never beat yourself up for slowing back to a walk.

“The biggest mistake people do is try to do too much,” Lawrence says. “You’ll enjoy it more, as opposed to pushing yourself. Do what you can, and make sure you are comfortable.”

Once outside, the cold should not be a problem, Lawrence says. Whether walking or running, dress in layers. “They make such great clothes nowadays,” he adds. The days of wearing heavy cotton sweatshirts are no longer necessary, with fleece jackets and thin but warm technical fibers available.

“Quick-drying fabrics keep you comfortable for much longer.” Local stores, especially Charm City Run, can outfit you for any kind of weather. But if you need to watch your wallet, you can buy inexpensive technical clothing at local big box stores or Goodwill.

DRINK TEA

Hot tea has many health upsides, especially on a cold winter day. The cup feels warm to the touch, but the tea is beneficial in so many ways. Tea comes from leaves grown on tea bushes, known in the botanic world as camellia sinensis.

Tea contains antioxidants, which help to cleanse the body of toxins. Tea also has considerably less caffeine than coffee. Some studies show tea helps to strengthen immune cells, which help us keep colds and other viruses at bay. Tea by itself has no calories. Even if you add a small amount of sugar, you can control the amount of sweetener you use. Green tea, which has slightly less caffeine than black tea, has been shown to reduce heart attack and stroke risks, and lower bad cholesterol.

Michael Harrison, who owns Café Anglais in Downtown Frederick, serves black tea at his restaurant. “I’m not sure of the health benefits, but it’s a wonderful experience,” he says. Harrison, a native of the U.K., says for the British, tea always seems to make things better.

“It’s a pick-me-up if you’re feeling down,” he says. “We Brits drink it all the time. It’s a good thing to do.” Decaffeinated tea doesn’t offer the same benefits, he says.

For the British, tea is the answer to many of life’s problems. “We’ll solve it over a cup of tea,” he says. “It’s more psychological and emotional, maybe, especially if you can share it with someone special.”

He can’t imagine a life without tea. “I like to think it tastes good and it does you good,” he says.

DO SOME YOGA

Frederick is home to many yoga studios and gyms which offer yoga classes, a great way to move your body, increase your flexibility and soothe achy body joints. Yoga has its roots in the India of thousands of years ago. The combination of movement, breath and mindfulness encourages a whole-body awareness, and yoga is beneficial for people at all levels of fitness.

Sol Yoga in Frederick is offering a free introductory class for those new to yoga on Jan. 6. The class will focus on basic postures and stress-relieving techniques. You need to register in advance. The free intro classes are repeated the first Saturday of each month.

The studio is offering an Intro to Flow workshop on Jan. 7 for those who want to build a little more strength, stamina, flexibility and balance through yoga movement. Ananda Shala offers flow and restorative yoga classes for people at all fitness levels and all ages. Real Health Studios in Frederick offers various levels of gentle yoga, flow yoga and strength and balance classes for seniors. This is by no means a complete list of all yoga classes in Frederick. Check out local yoga studios and gyms until you find the one that’s right for you.

Yoga by its nature warms you and your muscles as you move through the postures. Yoga instructors build slowly, from warmup to active movements to cool-downs, ending with the relaxing shavasana, usually done to soothing music. And if you can’t get out to a yoga studio, you can download yoga programs on your phone or tablet, or buy a few inexpensive DVDs and follow the workout in the privacy of your home.

Want to really get warm with yoga during these cold months? Try Hot Yoga, traditional yoga poses in a room heated close to 100 degrees.

GO TO THE GYM

In the winter, the steam can be evident on the windows of many local gyms. Not so much from the building heat, but from the heat being generated from people working out. From spin classes, to CrossFit gyms, to high intensity interval training, gyms can offer the motivation you may need.

Many gyms offer personal trainers for a fee, which can get you started on the path to a workout that works for you. Gyms may also offer classes, ranging from BodyPump to Zumba to spin, where instructors help get your heart rate and motivation up.

“Doing classes offers camaraderie and a social aspect,” says Shane Smith, who owns Middletown’s Rockstar Fitness gym with his wife Christy. “You don’t have to think, it’s a no-brainer.” The instructor tells you what to do, and you follow along. Somehow, you end up getting a good workout.

Classes also put the focus on instructors, Smith says. If you’re taking a class, you’re less likely to be self-conscious, and more likely to focus on your instructor’s lead.

Regular attendance at a gym, whether it’s for classes, to use a treadmill or other exercise equipment, or to lift weights, will offer results if you keep it up, Smith says. “Results are what keeps you motivated.”

“It can’t be a three-week thing,” he adds. “You’re not going to see results in three weeks.” But slow, steady progress is just that—progress. Imagine the feeling you get if you make a three-point shot in basketball. Or a perfect golf swing. Or that perfect serve in tennis. “Apply that feeling to the gym,” he says.

Using a treadmill, elliptical or stair climber will give you the same workout you’d get jogging, without dealing with weather. And the heart-pounding music of spin classes will get your heart pounding, all the while forgetting about how hard you’re working.

Eating well is another piece of the puzzle. “I don’t like to use the word diet,” he says. “I say food regimen. You don’t have to eat like a rabbit. It’s more about how to educate yourself to eat properly.”

That leads to the next category.

EAT MORE WHOLE FOODS

Use the longer, colder nights to experiment with whole, less processed foods. Make a healthful beef stew, but add in more vegetables and less meat. Chicken soup is not only good for the soul, it’s nourishing.

“You should always feel satisfied,” Smith says. Using a Crock Pot or the new Instant Pot, cook meat and vegetables together, letting the flavors meld. Don’t be afraid to season with dried herbs. If time is in short supply, use frozen vegetables.

Slowly simmering soups and stews, especially with broth, helps retain nutrients. Homemade soups and stews offer a satisfying way to get a filling, healthful meal. They also offer leftovers.

GO SKATING

Skate Frederick is open all year-round, but what better time to learn to navigate that oval than when it’s cold outside. Learn to Skate sessions start every four weeks in the winter months, and these sessions help people of any age learn to balance and move on ice skates, according to marketing director Renee Loftus.

“We have 70 and 80 year olds skating,” Loftus says. The goal of Learn to Skate is to help people gain the experience needed to make skating a lifelong pursuit.

The rink has an adult hockey league with many members who didn’t learn to skate until they were adults.

Children as young as 3 can take tot skating classes through the rink’s Ice Babies and Snowplow Sam programs. The rink’s certified instructors are trained in working with beginners as well as people who haven’t skated in many years, all the way up to advanced skaters.

The skate programs build on progressively more complex skills. “It’s great exercise, it’s fun, and it’s always climate-controlled,” Loftus says. “It’s always cold here.”

HIT THE (SNOW) HILL

Frederick usually gets a couple of good snowfalls each year. Take advantage of that snow day off work or school to find a local hill to sled. Rediscover the childhood fun of gliding down a snow-covered path.

Then work up an appetite dragging your sled back up the hill. You won’t notice the cold after you’ve trekked uphill a couple of times, and you might be able to justify that warm cup of cocoa. Pinecliff Park and Woodsboro Park are just a couple of local parks with great sledding hills.

If we get a really good snowfall, and you happen to have a pair of cross country skis or snowshoes, you can get an excellent workout skiing or snowshoeing through any one of our local parks, including Baker Park, Monocacy Battlefield, Utica Park and the C&O Canal.

BOWL

It may be dark outside, but bowling alleys are bright and cheerful all year long. Bowling is an easy way to get in some fun movement, while not even thinking about exercise. Bowling keeps the muscles moving and sharpens your ability to focus.

Terrace Lanes Bowling Center and Walkersville Bowling Center offer bowling leagues, bowling specials, tournaments and more. There are birthday parties for kids, corporate team building events and open play every day of the week.

Bowling promotes muscle growth and flexibility, according to Bowl Canada. Bowlers can burn anywhere from 170 to 300 calories per game. Bowling leagues keep people of all ages engaged. The combination of physical activity and social interaction help make bowling a stress reliever, according to Bowl Canada.

SLEEP

We as a society don’t pay enough attention to the health benefits of sleep. But sleeping seven to eight hours a night will make you healthier. Use this time of year to develop good sleeping habits to keep you moving all year long.