winter training for summer gains

Fiona O’Donnell on… Winter Training For Summer Goals

The search for summer goals starts now, with winter training!

It’s tough training in the winter. Dark mornings and even darker evenings
certainly don’t beckon to my soul the way the warm summer evenings do. But, the sense of satisfaction arriving home after a session in the dark, watching your breath cloud in front of your face, is worth the effort.
But, it’s not just the sense of satisfaction that gets me out the door.
Staying fit over the Christmas period and throughout the winter serves me in two major ways.

Get fit for New Year

Firstly, starting to ‘get fit for the New Year’ is tough going. We feel tired, bloated and sluggish after all the festivities around Christmas and instead of focussing on the positives of exercising and creating a healthier lifestyle, we aim to undo all the ‘damage’ that we did with Baileys and chocolate. It means we start the new year with a negative mindset and guilt even though we enjoyed so much time relaxing and laughing with family and friends.

But guess what – our bodies absolutely LOVE being in a calorie surplus**. To a point, we have more energy, we feel really good because we are socialising more and eating lots of delicious food and we sleep really well with all those delicious carbs.

If you train in any type of sport or if you just love a good Zumba class, your muscles are primed to soak up those extra calories and use them to build muscle with the right training. NOW IS THE TIME if there ever was one, to go out and smash your session at the gym or pick up those heavy weights for some massive gains. The top phrase for me for winter training is “stronger, faster, fitter”.

Winter benefits

This feeds into the second positive. When I am in the height of triathlon season, I cannot train with the same intensity in the gym as I can now. I need the recovery time to swim, bike and run. But during the winter, I can switch my focus from getting faster and fitter aerobically to becoming more powerful and increasing my lean mass (muscle) all of which benefits my ability to do work as a triathlete. Hard winter training = huge summer benefits in my competitive season.

Now, maybe your summer goals are not sports-related. Maybe you are more focused on feeling comfortable in your summer wardrobe? Or you want to feel more confident at the beach. Guess what, the same advice applies. If you want to spend Christmas really enjoying your food, then put it to good use and show your body the love it deserves by making it stronger.

Focussing your efforts on building lean mass and strength often results in fat loss. So we get the results we desire through positive action instead of resorting to the diet mentality of remove, restrain, refuse.

Now, of course, we need to be conscious of food intake to ensure we aren’t eating more than we need. But this can be easier to do in conjunction with some hard training than on its own.

Quiz yourself

Let’s start by going through this little questionnaire to see where you can set your sights for 2020

  1. What kind of exercise do you like to do? Start doing 15 minutes 3 times a week.
  2. Have you written down and committed to a schedule? Take out that diary now and pencil it in.
  3. Do you have a programme to get you through the next four weeks while you set up a routine? There are loads of plans online. If you can’t find one, email me on [email protected] and I will sign you up to the “28 day body blast”.

Look up the classes and PT rates provided by your local gym NOW! …..and BOOK in! There is no time like the present to get a good plan rolling.

**Being in a calorie surplus means eating more food than our body is burning for fuel. This results in an increase in body weight and body fat.

Fiona O’Donnell is a nutritionist and works with busy women empowering lifestyle change. With a background working as a cardiac physiologist, her focus has always been on health. In 2017, Fiona underwent a kidney transplant thanks to an altruistic donation from a close friend. Since then, she has slowly returned to competing in triathlon and open water swimming. Fiona has a blog www.westcorkfit.com where she frequently posts recipes and fitness articles.

Read more: 4 easy health hacks to get back on track