As things cool down out there, let’s discuss some of the simplest ways you can keep moving through the winter – so we can all stride into spring like a well oiled machine, and not a rusty old banger.
Look, I know you want me to – but I’m not going to quote Taylor Swift. Although, she does have a point. We have long been accustomed to the idea of shrugging or shaking something off. If something is bothering us, we can get over it; just ‘shake it off’ (damn, I inadvertently quoted Taylor Swift). But how about taking the idea of ‘shaking it off’ literally. I’ve been doing a thing called Collective Energy on Saturday mornings. It’s yoga. Sort of. Anyway, part of the practice involves shaking every part of the body, before returning to stillness. It’s such a simple thing, but honestly – a revelation. It releases frustration, sadness and any other nagging feelings that are pent up in the body. Try it out sometime when you’re feeling grouchy. In the stillness, after shaking it all about for a minute or so, take note of how you feel. You don’t have to know what it is, you don’t have to name it, you just have to feel it – and welcome the space.
I miss big sweaty dance-floors. I miss the feeling of the bass in the floorboards. I miss the euphoric exhaustion of dancing all night long…but those days will come again. I’ve heard there are ‘dance-parties’ happening on Zoom so if you’re up for it – go forth! But, tell you what I’ve been doing? Dancing around my bedroom. Dancing like nobody’s watching (because nobody is!). Dancing releases more endorphins than any other form of exercise, because it connects with the emotional centres in the brain. And quite often, it offers an emotional release. We need those happy chemicals to help ourselves through the darker months of the year. So, when you’re feeling gloomy – draw the curtains, put on some classic tunes (perhaps a bit of Taylor Swift?), maybe even throw in some of the new moves you’ve learnt with Maeve, and get grooving on down.
Now, this is an easy one. And it takes very little planning. You don’t need music, training shoes, or even clothes! When you wake up in the morning, before you do anything (and I mean anything) – wriggle your toes. How are those feet doing? There are 26 bones, 30 joints, and 100 muscles in there. Roll your ankles, check out the calves. Wiggle your fingers, circle your wrists. Just slowly, mindfully, start moving your body from the comfort of your warm bed. Let your body guide you to what it wants. This simple practice is an excellent leveller and will make a real difference to your mood: You are connecting with your body, breathing, letting go of the night’s sleep, and taking in how you’re feeling today. Even just a minute’s wriggle will do. It will set you up, get you out of bed on the right side, and it might even soften the stagger to the kettle (if you’re under 30 and don’t know what I’m talking about – your time will come)!
The benefits of exercise are endless. We know that. But winter often sees our passion for it, fizzle out. Don’t let it. Firstly, it will be harder to pick it up again; but more importantly, it will make you feel better if you keep exercising through the winter. Reduce it, adapt it, whatever you like – but don’t let it die. Our bodies and brains will need all the support they can get over the next few months. Yes, the weather can be grim, but it actually does wonders for your mood to get all up in the elements. Run in the rain! Cycle in the cyclone! (Ok, maybe don’t cycle in a cyclone). The trick is to keep doing a little of what you’re doing, all the way through autumn, into winter: If you’re a fair-weather-runner, you’re hardly going to go from balmy beach jogs to sprints in the howling wind – that’s why the transition is so important. Wrap up warm for a long walk on a grey day. Kit yourself out with some leg warmers, a sweat wicking hat, and some thin gloves for your run. Stretch before you leave the house, and keep doing it – whatever it is, whatever the weather. Even if you only manage a shuffle round the block – it’s something. And it’s good. You could even try Colomba’s calming offering of Qigong to warm you up, or wind you down for the short days and long nights to come. We have a habit of putting off a new regime until the spring, but you will build a more resilient, long-lasting relationship with exercise if you start now – in the cold.
5. LIE DOWN
You’re welcome. No but seriously, it’s important to rest. And rest feels wonderful when we have moved our bodies. Anyone who has woken up from shavasana, dribbling, at the end of a yoga class can attest to that. Take the time to just lie down, and take it all in.
PS: I’m sorry if you have that Taylor Swift song going round and round in your head now. I do too.